She’s Lindsey Vonn, and you’re not
Seizing the moment.
The great ones do it.
In America’s sporting realm, you think of people like Babe Ruth, Joe Montana, Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky. Come the clutch moment, these guys come in on the white horse and blast the home, throw the touchdown pass, etc.
Jordan and Gretzky played about 80 games per season plus the playoffs. Ruth had 154 games a season and about four at-bats in each. Montana, bless him, had 16 games and plenty of passing attempts.
Lindsey Vonn had 70 seconds during the course of 13 years to win a race on home snow.
She started racing the World Cup back in 2000. Wednesday’s super-G was really meant to be in Val d’Isere, France and women’s racing likely won’t come back to Beaver Creek until 2013 when the ladies get their hill at Birds of Prey.
And, yeah, Lindsey, absolutely everyone in the media, the stands – including the little kids for whom you are their hero – the course workers, the volunteers and your friends expect you to win. (And the parking lot attendants and the people who drive the buses, too.)
And everyone is looking to find the slightest chink in your performance – say, gasp, if she had finished second, oh, the horror – so that they can jump to the inevitable conclusion that your impending divorce is clearly affecting your skiing.
No pressure there, Lindsey.
That was clutch, kids. There have been great moments at Birds of Prey – Herman Maier and Lasse Kjus tying at Worlds, Rahlves wins on home snow, MIller wins, the two switch places on the podium.
All of the above is why Wednesday might have been the best moment at Birds of Prey to date. Vonn herself admitted it wasn’t close to a perfect run – she nearly missed a gate or two. If this race were held somewhere else, say like Val d’Isere, she wins probably wins by more than 0.37 seconds because she knows the course and there isn’t the weight of the world on her. Doesn’t matter. She still won.
Vonn is the best skier of this generation, regardless of gender. She’s Maier or Ingemar Stenmark or Annemarie Moser-Proll. The last one on that list holds the women’s World Cup win mark at 62.
It’s tough to predict skiing because there are so many variables yet Vonn is 27 and tied for third with Austria’s Renate Gotschl on that list with 46. Conservatively, four wins in the next five years would do it, right?
After Wednesday, don’t bet against her.
Other news and notes:
• Shut your traps, people. It is none of our business what’s happening in Vonn’s private life. And just because she did a little Te-bow before hopping up on the podium does not mean she’s sleeping with the Broncos quarterback.
Come on, if Ted Ligety were getting a divorce – and I don’t even know if he’s married – would anyone be talking about it? Or is it because Vonn happens to be extremely attractive female and subject to different standards? It is clearly not affecting her skiing, so this is out of bounds.
• OK, most awkward moment of Birds of Prey: I ask Vonn Monday at a news conference for her reaction that Golden Eagle Jump will not be on the women’s super-G course. I end up delivering the news. Vonn is disappointed. I’m glad she doesn’t blame the messenger. If she were Henry VIII of England, my head would have been on the block.
• Most interesting moment of Birds of Prey: What is more surprising? Ligety winning the Tuesday GS or finishing second in Sunday’s GS? That’s how good Ligety has become. I think it’s that he didn’t win Sunday.
• Most surprising moment of Birds of Prey: Bode Miller winning the downhill. I wrote before this all started that we all tend to write him off and we shouldn’t. I still wrote him off. Good job, Freud.
That was vintage Bode – fly through a few gates, destroy the course and then talk like you knew it was coming.
• Interesting article Wednesday in The Wall Street Journal by Matthew Futterman titled “Is America becoming the new Austria?” Answer: No. Vonn is clearly skiing in her own world, as noted before. Ligety is a GS stud, but the jury is still out on whether he can win the overall. Miller can open up a can of greatness once in a while, but he’s not an overall threat. (I’m not writing him off. He’s just more of a speed guy now.)
Yes, it’s been a great start to the season. Where the United States is still trailing Austria, and Switzerland for that matter, is depth. Just look at a start list before any World Cup race. We don’t have the numbers – male or female – that the above two ski powers have in all the disciplines. You don’t see a lot of “USA” in the top 30 start positions. You still see “AUT” and “SUI” a lot.
The U.S. Ski Team is light years ahead of where it was when I started here in 1997 – its old slogan, “Best in the World!” was a joke. When you can go to a race and know an assortment of Americans – read, not just Vonn – realistically can make the podium, then we can start talking about American skiing in the same breath as the Austrians or the Swiss.
• Congratulations to all involved with Birds of Prey for being able to tack on three more races. Bravo to Beaver Creek, its crew, the Vail Valley Foundation and all its volunteers. Go ahead and tae a well-deserved nap for the next week. We’ll se you next year.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or email@example.com.