Let's give Lindsey Kildow Vonn the credit she deserves
November 28, 2008 —
By now we know the drill: the mass media ignores skiing until the year before the Olympics, then scrambles to catch up with the sport so near and dear to our hearts here in Vail and Beaver Creek.
Case in point came recently during a phone conference with Vail-trained Lindsey Kildow Vonn as she prepared to race in the Aspen Winternational (www.aspensnowmass.com) and vie for a second technical victory after claiming her first-ever World Cup slalom win in Levi, Finland recently.
The races are part of the North American leg of the World Cup tour. Every year world’s best women stop for a few technical races in Aspen over Thanksgiving weekend, and the men come by for a four-event extravaganza in Beaver Creek Dec. 4-7 (learn more at www.bcwsorldcup.com).
A reporter from a large news organization (which will remain un-named) asked Kildow if she looked up to the famous Picabo Street, and if she had the goal of achieving the two world cup titles Picabo had earned during her illustrious career.
Vonn, with all her usual grace, gently reminded the reporter that Street had captured two women’s overall downhill titles, whereas Vonn has already eclipsed Street by capturing a downhill title plus a far-more fantastic prize: the women’s overall World Cup title. It’s something no American woman has done since Tamara McKinney in 1983.
The undercurrent of the conversation was clearly that Vonn, however talented, still hasn’t captured Olympic gold, a prerequisite for capturing the attention of the American people.
She acknowledged this, then went on to praise Street thusly:
“I first met Picabo at an autograph signing when she was about 9 years old,” she said. “From that point on that’s all I wanted to do, she inspired me to want to be an Olympic ski racer. She still stays in contact, calls me after a big win or something, has always been a supporter and I really appreciate what she’s done to help me over the years.”
The sad truth is that America will never know Vonn as well as Street until, and unless, Vonn wins Olympic hardware, preferably gold. But here in ski country it’s time we acknowledge that Vonn has rivaled, indeed surpassed, the venerable Street to become the greatest American female skier of our time.
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