Lindsey Vonn was accused of unsportsmanlike conduct by the coaches of rival Tina Maze after winning the super-G Saturday. Is this kind of controversy good for the sport of skiing?
By Bonnie D. Ford
Altering the premise slightly, Alpine skiing doesn't need this kind of "controversy" -- which was defused almost as soon as it supposedly ignited -- but any fastest-from-point-A-to-point-B sport does need sustained rivalries to attract sustained interest. Two years ago, Lindsey Vonn and her good friend Maria Riesch (now Hoefl-Riesch) of Germany duked it out for the World Cup overall title until the very end, when Riesch barely prevailed. This season Maze, the current standings leader from the non-powerhouse country of Slovenia, could stand in Vonn's way. Vonn dominated last season, but the speed-event queen would be the first to say it won't always be a cakewalk.
Vonn has had a dramatic season and it isn't even half over. She pointed her skis downhill looking to distance herself from a well-publicized divorce and tax issue, then almost immediately made news with an unsuccessful bid for a one-off entry in a men's event. Then she was hospitalized with a mysterious intestinal ailment. Then she won four World Cup races.
With every victory, Vonn moves closer to two milestones: the career record of 62 World Cup wins (Vonn has 57) and an unprecedented fifth overall championship. Every move she makes and every slip of the lip will be scrutinized, and it's only logical her peers will sometimes feel as if they can't ski out of her shadow. It's also understandable that a competitor with Vonn's drive might let an expletive fly now and then in anger or satisfaction. Vonn said she wasn't aiming her bomb at Tina Maze, and in my opinion, she deserves the benefit of the doubt.
By Mechelle Voepel
Frankly, I don't know how people ever race down icy mountains at death-defying speeds without letting loose a few expletives when they reach the bottom.
Did Lindsey Vonn just curse in relief/exhilaration as she said, or did she curse in triumph toward Slovenian rival Tina Maze? The race director completely backed Vonn's version of what happened. Either way, who cares? If this passes for "controversy," then skiing really needs to upgrade its controversies.
Still, anything that might get American sports fans thinking about World Cup skiing is kind of fun. Even something this silly.
It appears to be a case of that stock character in women's skiing -- the hyper-involved boyfriend/husband who doubles as coach/trainer -- injecting himself into the fray. That's about as familiar to the sport as the shaking of cowbells.
According to reports, Maze's boyfriend/trainer made the protest against Vonn, then had little to say about it to the media afterward. What was the motivation?
To get in Vonn's head, of course. Another familiar part of skiing. But Vonn has won 57 World Cup races. She won't be rattled by this amusing nonsense.
By Sarah Spain
Controversy can be good sometimes. Everyone loves a heated rivalry, and a good tantrum can certainly draw some interest. This "controversy," however, sounds like a bunch of childish whining. I get that sports like golf, tennis and apparently skiing demand a certain level of decency and sportsmanship, but a curse word or two is hardly cause for complaint. The only outbursts worthy of an uproar are those that are racist, homophobic or otherwise bigoted.
As for a few cuss words, well that's a silly thing to care much about. I'm surprised these ladies aren't cursing more. The fact that athletes in so-called "gentleman's" sports can usually keep their cool after a blown putt or a bad fall is beyond me. Then again, I always have been a bit of a sore loser.
By Graham Hays
In the sense that this story earns more attention and a few more minutes of conversation in the mainstream American sports world than would have yet another win for Vonn had she crossed the finish line saying "Gee whiz, that was neat" -- sure, maybe this is good in some small way. Maybe a dozen more people will remember watching Vonn in the Olympics and check the results of the next stop. Maybe a dozen more people in this country (which would bring the total to perhaps 15) who don't follow skiing on a regular basis now know who World Cup leader Tina Maze is. But no, in the big picture, this isn't good for skiing. It's shallow, junk-food stuff masquerading as a skiing story, a poor impersonation of the real rivalry Vonn and Maze may have as phenomenal skiers.
And second, it doesn't seem to be much of a controversy. Someone associated with Maze's camp acted like a sore loser and filed a protest, which sounds like it was dismissed out of hand. Move along folks, nothing to see here.
One of the coolest sporting experiences I ever had, brought about completely due to my own cluelessness, was to get stuck on a mountain as a spectator for half a day as a teenager during some sort of minor-league or junior circuit downhill race in Switzerland. Watching the velocity and power involved as racers whizzed by, experiencing just what an ice sheet a competitive course is during a race, it left just as much of an impression as seeing the Indianapolis 500 in person. To this day, while I don't build a schedule around it, I'll generally stick to the end if I stumble across a World Cup race on television. If people could experience the sights and sounds of a race, either in person or through easy access to the stories I'm sure someone is telling out there, that would be good for skiing. Learning more about Maze and Vonn, that would be good for skiing.
Arguing about expletives is just grist for the news cycle.
By Jane McManus
Lindsey Vonn cursed. Big deal.
Incidental profanity is so commonplace it has become completely unremarkable. Sitcoms refer to the seven words you can't say on television in their titles now.
I can remember cursing as I crossed the finish line in the 40-yard dash, when I was in fourth grade.
To me, the standard of proof has to be a little bit higher if you're going to accuse someone of unsportsmanlike conduct.
It stinks to lose four straight races to another competitor. Odds are, Lindsey Vonn's wins and fame haven't endeared her to Tina Maze. But drumming up an unsportsmanlike charge out of a nothing burger isn't the way to win a race.
Maze needs a thicker skin, and to let her results do the talking -- using whatever kind of language she prefers.