Could Be Cheesy Games if Vonn Sits Out
She gazes at us from a double-page spread in Sports Illustrated's new swimsuit issue, wearing a two-piece, red-and-white number that successfully sells her sexuality. It's part of Lindsey Vonn's marketing assault on the American consciousness, an all-out swarm intended to combine her telegenic looks, Midwestern background and estimable ski talents to transform her into America's golden girl and medals machine at the Winter Olympics.
But now, she's just another wounded athlete who wraps her right shin in cheese, hoping a 20-year dream hasn't been ruined again by a deep, six-inch bruise. Hyped relentlessly as the world's premier female Alpine skier and a potential winner of five medals, perhaps two gold, Vonn-couver is petrified that the injury might rub her out of the Games. She hurt the shin during a slalom training run last week in Austria and has been keeping her medical condition a secret because, in her words, "I didn't want to alarm anybody." When Vonn finally broke the news Wednesday, she did more than alarm NBC boss Dick Ebersol, Olympic organizers and the companies she endorses.
She cast gloom over an every-four-years event that, frankly, isn't nearly as popular as it once was and needs her to create interest. As it is, no one is sure if Vancouver will have enough snow and cold weather to create a Winter Games atmosphere -- much less produce the kind of consistent drama that holds a TV audience for two weeks. Now, one of the Games' marquee names is suffering from an injury she describes as "excruciatingly painful," mostly because the shin area is where a skier applies pressure when her boot meets her leg. She couldn't have suffered worse luck at the worst possible time, having been unable to walk for two days, having to stay off skis for a week and experiencing pain simply when she tries to put on a boot in her hotel.
If Vonn can't compete, well, consider the Super Bowl without Drew Brees and the World Series without Derek Jeter. Poised to be a darling of the Games, she's now one medical decision away from giving you one less reason to watch.
"It's hard to stay positive, you know," Vonn said. "A week ago, I was feeling great, I was feeling healthy, I had no problems. And now, I'm sitting here today questioning whether I'll be even able to ski. So, it's not where I want to be, by any means. It's probably the worst place that you can have an injury, because you're constantly pushing against your boot, and there's no way around it.
"It's hard to focus on just being prepared for the Olympics when you have such a big injury like this. It has definitely changed my whole perspective coming into these Games, and definitely is not the place that I want to be."
So she could pull out officially as soon as Thursday? "Yeah, that's a possibility," Vonn said.