Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Lindsey Vonn: WhoTF Is Inventing All of These "Controversies"?

Lindsey Vonn Captured on our PhotoFinish at FIS World Cup @ Lake Louise, Alberta

I can't understand, and am infuriated by, the controversy(s) being invented out of whole cloth in the media about Lindsey Vonn.

There's the controversy about her Sports Illustrated cover:


Then there's the controversy about her appearance in the Sports Illustrated Bathing Suit Issue:


And the controversy about her estranged relationship with her father:


And the controversy about her weight and size:


Sporting media, get a grip. Let's review a few facts, shall we?

1) She's the best female alpine ski racer in the world. By far. Nobody else is even close.

2) She is a threat to win any World Cup, World Championship, or Olympic race, in any discipline, in any conditions, anywhere, at any time. She's actually more than a threat; for many, she's a foregone conclusion. When she shows up at a speed event (Super-G or Downhill) these days, many in the media write their stories about her victory before the race even starts, and then re-write in the unlikely event that one of her rivals - such as Maria Riesch or Anja Paerson - wins. She swept, for example, all three World Cup speed races held on consecutive days at Lake Louise, Alberta earlier this season. Then she did the same thing at Haus im Enstal, Austria a few weeks ago. A clean sweep. Twice.

3) This is the third straight year she's achieved the rarified status described above in point #1.

4) She long ago achieved the status of becoming the winning-est American female ski racer ever. She is one World Cup victory from passing Bode Miller as the winning-est American ski racer ever, period.

5) Last week she clinched the Super-G crystal globe (World Cup Season Trophy), and the season doesn't end for two months.

6) She is a ferocious competitor. At the Torino Olympics, after a bad crash, she literally went from a hospital bed directly to the slopes to race an Olympic event. She didn't win, but she placed in the top ten. She won multiple World Cup races in 2009 and 2010 with her hand in a cast from various injuries.

7) She is known for superb sportsmanship. Her BFF is none other than Maria Riesch, a German racer who is her closest rival for the FIS World Cup Overall crystal globe. Riesch's family in Garmisch tends to Vonn's cows (yes, her cows), which she was awarded for winning a series of World Cup races in Val d'Isere. The two usually spend the holidays together, when the World Cup break is too short for Vonn to go back to The States.

8) She happens, incidentally, to be almost 6 feet tall and drop-dead gorgeous, with a 1,000-watt smile worthy of a supermodel. She also speaks fluent German.

9) Unless the above-referenced Sports Illustrated photos have been retouched, she apparently has buns of steel, six-pack abs, and looks terrific in a bikini.

Now we move away from facts and into opinion.

Lindsay Vonn is the best international ambassador for American sports I can think of. She's a better athlete than James Blake, she doesn't threaten to kill umpires like Serena Williams, she isn't a stoner like Michael Phelps. This is not a made-for-TV invention, like Anna Kournikova or Alexandra Stevenson. She's more along the lines of Chris Evert or Lisa Leslie, a phenomenal athlete who just happens to be a hottie.

I can't say I know her, but I've chatted briefly with her a few times at the World Cup races in Lake Louise. The racers, the coaches, the technicians, and the race support people all stay at the same hotel (Chateau Lake Louise) for those two weeks, so it's impossible not to occasionally bump into a Julia Mancuso or a Benni Raich or a Didier Cuche in the buffet line or just wandering around the hallways. She seemed friendly, laid-back, and genuine, as much as I could tell in a couple of 30-second conversations.

The thing about ski racing is that it's so horribly ephemeral and fleeting; she could hit the nets tomorrow and not win any of the 3 or 4 gold medals many expect her to win. Hell, she could hit the nets tomorrow and never walk again. Tragically, alpine ski racing is a sport where sometimes racers go down and they don't get up again. This isn't swimming or ice skating; storied careers end in the blink of an eye with alarming frequency. If you don't believe me, just ask Matthias Lanzinger or Silvano Beltrametti. So to the writers and flesh-police zealots stirring up all this sheisse, I say to you all: just STFU. Don't be so lazy, do some research, write about somebody who needs the ink.

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