Few names are bigger than Lindsey Vonn, the ski racing legend of the 21st century. But is all the hype really deserved? Vonn has suffered unprecedented hate from the ski world for years, regardless of her racing victories, but does she belong in the Olympic Hall of Fame as America’s sweetheart, or do the haters actually have a point?
Since her Olympic debut in 2002 when she was only 17, Vonn has been the face of American ski racing across the globe, thrilling millions with her astonishing speed and aggression that took her both to victory after victory, and crash after crash. Over the course of her career, she brought home three Olympic medals (one Gold), 82 FIS World Cup first-place wins, and countless downhill records, even while battling many catastrophic injuries following races gone wrong. It is undeniable that she is an incredibly talented athlete who has persevered to reach the height of ski racing achievement, so why is she so controversial and receives countless hate comments on the internet?
Vonn’s first significant controversy that sparked a huge outcry was at the end of 2017, shortly before the 2018 Olympics where she was on TeamUSA and ended up taking home a bronze medal in the downhill race. In a public interview in December 2017, Vonn famously said that she will be representing the people of the US, not President Trump and that if invited to the White House following the Games, she would not attend. This statement prompted an avalanche of hate comments and accusations of her lack of patriotism on Twitter, with many calling her “Anti-American” and even stating that they hoped she would “break her neck” during the race. After a mistake during the super-g cost her the podium, the hate got even worse as Trump supporters attested that she deserved to lose and she should have focussed on winning instead of “bashing our American President.”
Obviously, some of Vonn’s lack of popularity is due to her political beliefs, but many people also lost respect for her simply because she stated her beliefs and brought politics into the Olympics, somewhere that is often seen as a haven of athleticism and pride, separate from any political spectrum. Bringing politics into the picture distracts from the athletes and their achievements, something Vonn has also been accused of in the past.
On top of being widely accepted as the most successful female racer of the 21st century (until Mikaela Shiffrin showed up!), Vonn’s stunning beauty and tendency to date famous men, including Tiger Woods, Alexander Ludwig, and her fiance P.K. Subban, have led Vonn to be the center of attention in much of the media coverage dedicated to ski racing. Already a sport that struggles to gain followers, many in the ski racing world have turned against Vonn for seeming to always be desperate to dominate the news, drawing attention away from younger upcoming athletes who could benefit significantly from the support and sponsorships that she receives.
While, of course, this is frustrating for other racers who would love to have her big-ticket sponsors like Red Bull, Under Armour, GoPro, Vail Resorts, Rolex, Beats by Dre, and many more, should she really be shamed for being successful and having the media hound her? After all, she’s not the one writing the articles or forcing companies to work with her.
Some of Vonn’s hate might also stem from pure jealousy, people who’ve seen her crash over and over and think that her victories are just flukes and she really isn’t that good; and while one gold medal is infinitely more than I will ever have, there are many Olympians who have brought home countless medals yet have far less hype than Vonn. In addition, rumors say that Vonn can come off as stuck up in person, ignoring fans and demanding only the best conditions for her to race and train on. Her constant fight to be able to race against men also led many to label her as arrogant and over-confident for trying to disrupt the skiing world in an attempt to prove herself and gain more media attention.
But how could we understand the level of pressure she is under? Of course, she wants the best conditions to ski on, after so many injuries taking her out for months at a time, and maybe it is time for the women to be allowed to race the men, this is the age of feminism and equality, right? Or should Vonn just stay in her lane and remember that while she might be hot stuff today, there are plenty of other stars ready to take her place?
Where do you stand on the Lindsey Vonn debate? Have you been a loyal fan since the beginning, or have you been against her since she famously said she thought skiers and snowboarders should be separated on the slopes? Even after she seemed to retire in the news multiple times last season, she is still dominating the skiing media. Do her accomplishments merit her the success and fame that she has bathed in for years, or is she just another overrated blonde beauty who just happens to occasionally ski pretty quick, when she can manage to stay on her feet?