Saturday, February 17, 2018 at 5:41 AM

PyeongChang Olympics: Day 7 – Lindsey Vonn: Return of the Snow Queen

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

Women’s Super-G

Lindsey Vonn is easily the most successful female skier in history. She racked up a record-setting 81 wins on the World Cup tour between 2002 and 2018. But, despite opportunities at five Olympic Games over that period, she has only one career-crowning gold medal.

To be fair, untimely injuries, which she chronicled with viral impact on social media, account for this lack of Olympic glory. In fact, she was arguably in her prime when injury prevented her from competing at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

This is why a healthy Vonn was understandably anxious, after days of weather-related delays, to start winning as many gold medals as possible at these her fifth and likely last Olympic Games:

I won a gold medal at the 2010 [Vancouver] Olympics that changed my life. It all helps establish a legacy, and now, here’s one more shot.

(New York Times, February 16, 2018)

She is far from my favorite winter Olympian, but I was really pulling for Vonn. And she seemed headed for gold until, ironically, she made a rookie mistake, overshooting one of the final gates and losing precious time.

  • Ester Ledecka of Czech Republic won gold, Anna Veith of Austria, silver; and Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein, bronze

Vonn ended up sixth. Next, the Downhill, her best event. Then again, the Giant Slalom was Mikaela Shiffrin’s, and she ended up off the podium in fourth.

That said, I’d be remiss not to hail Ledecka’s improbable win. Forty-five women competed in this event, but commentators assured viewers that only the first 19 had any chance of winning.

Sure enough, after the 19th skier finished well off the podium, they announced Veith as the winner. Moreover, Veith began celebrating as such.

Then came Ledecka, the 26th skier, and all hell broke loose — complete with the commentators eating crow.

Her victory is all the more remarkable because she’s primarily a snowboarder, so much so that the 22-year-old Ledecka had to borrow skis to compete in this event. In fact, she is the first and only Olympic athlete to compete in both skiing and snowboarding. Now she has an Olympic gold medal in the former to go with her World Championship title in the latter.

Bring in the clowns (from North Korea). Where are the crowds?

My abiding pet peeve is the eyesore of empty venues at Olympic Games. I decided to hold off venting in this case because the weather has been so inhospitable, events themselves have been postponed. But the weather has been near perfect these past few days. Yet, empty venues abound.

Media reports gave the impression that hundreds of North Korean cheerleaders would be leading goodwill cheers during every event at every venue. But even they are nowhere to be seen. I mean, there was virtually nobody in the stands for one of the feature events of these Games, the Women’s Giant Slalom. WTF!

I hoped the screed I wrote four years ago would be instructive. Here is an excerpt from “Sochi Olympics: Day 1,” February 8, 2014.

____________________

I have a gripe about something that is becoming as much a staple at Olympic Games as the Opening Ceremony.

I find it more than a little difficult to reconcile all of the Chinese hype about these Olympic Games being such a source of national pride with all of the empty seats at so many events.

(“Beijing Olympics,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 15, 2008)

Sure enough, the first day of competition in Sochi makes clear that we’re going to be treated to the dispiriting eyesore of empty seats here too. To be fair, Western media have done all they possibly could to scare away spectators with their hysterical reporting on potential terrorist attacks.

Still, you’d think the Russians would have learned from the Chinese, or heeded my advice:

Again, it’s not as if the London organizers were not aware that this might be the case. It boggles the mind, therefore, that they did not enlist tens of thousands of volunteers (from pensioners to school kids) to show up at a moment’s notice to fill seats if ticket holders do not show up. They could have warned in print on all tickets that the holder forfeits the seat if it is not occupied by [45] minutes before the scheduled start of the event.

(“London Olympics: Day 1,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 28, 2012)

____________________

That said, I feel a bit foolish. After all, Chinese organizers had 1.3 billion people from which to draft and even they couldn’t ensure all venues were jam-packed to save face. Therefore, it seems foolhardy to expect any other host country to do so.

What’s more, South Korean organizers are reportedly trying desperately to do something about it.

Groups of South Korean schoolchildren have been a common sight, bused in for field trips as part of a program by the Ministry of Education to educate young Koreans about winter sports.

They also fill empty seats quite nicely.

(New York Times, February 15, 2018)

Accordingly, I hereby put this pet peeve to rest. But I remain convinced that, as dispiriting as it is for me to see empty venues, it must be doubly so for Olympians to compete in them.

MEDAL COUNT: Norway 19; Germany 15; Netherlands 13

Related commentaries:
Day 1-6
Sochi Day 1

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