Also Friday minor tragedy, b/c Lindsey Vonn, i.e. the no doubt best American skier ever, the no doubt best woman skier in the world, the two-time World Cup Overall Champion, has a painful bruised shin, and might not be able to win any medal in these Olympics.
I have experience with playing through painful sports injuries. Yet, as an adult, when I allowed my son's batted one hop line drive to smash squarely into my shin, it turned out to be one of the sharply painful and lingering injuries I've had. I could not, for instance, have sucked it up and run full speed for more than a short distance. Even full speed for a few steps would have caused tears. The pain was intense.
Lindsey Vonn's injury, incurred last week, is in a shin location which must be pressed forward against the ski boot during a run. It's as if a stone is being compressed between the ski boot and an extremely swollen and tender bone bruise in the shin. Picabo Street made the salient point: you can press through pain once, but soon the body shuts down and will not allow you to do it again and again. If Lindsey Vonn is to compete, she must press through pain all the way down the hill - over and over and over and over and over, and a bunch more overs. If she involuntarily backs off the pain, even once, by accident: she cannot win.
A shame. Lindsey Vonn is 25, and is generally considered the best conditioned female skier in the world - both aerobically and in muscle strength. She is 5'10" of power: a body like a big cat - a tiger. She is the first woman ever to use men's skis. Now, a couple more women use them, other of the best woman skiers tried them and rejected them. It's difficult for even the best woman skiers to have the strength to wield men's skis. Lindsey Vonn has the aerobic fitness to cycle on difficult mountain training rides with expert male cyclists, shoves barbells better than 95% of men ever will, and trains with German trainers who push her through exotic drills for balance, agility, flexibility. She has preternatural feel for the fall line of a mountain, and has ever since about age 3. She says:
"When you are going 85 mph, it's difficult to know where you will end up. I've just always been able to look ahead, down the mountain, and just know where I have to go. And then I just ... make myself go there."One of her German trainers is a former World Cup skier. He told Sports Illustrated:
"The first time I saw her ski, I said 'This is a crazy girl. No one takes chances like she does, no one pushes every edge to the limit.'"
Born in Minnesota, Vonn retains traces of the Minnesota accent. Her family moved to Vail to further her career, and she currently resides in Vail. The town has rallied around her as it's official favorite athlete to root for.
Vonn has signed over a dozen endorsement deals in advance of these Olympics. She has qualified for 5 events which stretch over 13 days of the Olympics, and NBC had zeroed in on her as the Michael Phelps story of Vancouver. It's more difficult to win skiing medals than swimming medals: more variables. Lindsey Vonn, however has advantages Michael Phelps does not: she is beautiful; she has a personality and a smile which draw you in; she is, according to a friend in Sports Illustrated: "The girl everyone wants to go to the prom with." And, even more important than the acclaim, even more important than the $ Millions which would have resulted from the acclaim, this was her moment: she was at a peak of strength, conditioning, and ability which cannot be duplicated. Lindsey says she can compete in the next Olympics. Maybe she can be outstanding there. But she cannot be quite so outstanding as she would have been this year.
Is the moment gone? No one knows, not even Lindsey Vonn. The injury is mysterious. She could wake up any day: tomorrow, a week from now, and suddenly have enough reduced swelling and reduced tenderness that she could compete at a high level. Or not. No one knows. That's part of what makes the story so compelling, so potentially tragic, so potentially breathtaking. We've become accustomed to doctors accurately predicting the timetables for returns from injuries. With this injury, even the doctors do not know. Everything is on the table: she could win everything, nothing, or anything in between. Drama.
Back to Friday Hot (on Saturday): Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue is out, and I'm getting old. The girls are just girls now. Too young. But I am intrigued by the athletes: Lindsey Vonn, Clair Bidez (snowboarder). I'm intrigued by the athletic bodies - especially in motion. I like to watch women move - even just walk - with coordination, agility, power, lithe gracefulness. I like when basketball girls break a time-out huddle and walk back onto the floor: a bit tired, but walking with power, coordination, and with purpose. I like that as an appreciation of the beauty of humanity. Just the walking is like great dance: it communicates.
Anyway, I love to imagine how Lindsey Vonn's body moves: the body of a big cat who is human; the lithe muscles extending and firing; the agility and balance. She is rare. Athletically, she is a knockout. And as a woman.
photos by Sports Illustrated
If Lindsey stood next to me, she would appear as an exotic species - as a different and uniquely powerful breed of human. I have seen actresses whom, in person, are pretty girls who would nevertheless be maybe the 5th prettiest girl in any Dallas restaurant on any weekend night. Actresses, often, are emotionally talented persons whom the camera just happens to love. They might have fortunately wonderful cheekbones which can be lit to advantage during a photo shoot, yet they wouldn't necessarily turn your head any more than any number of attractive women would. Lindsey Vonn, however, if she walked 5'10" of herself into a Dallas restaurant, would stop all conversation.