When you have two fierce and successful competitors playing for the same team, yet searching for individual glory…you’re bound to have problems.
Such is the case with American skiers Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso. Both are phenomenal athletes. Both are on the US Ski Team. Both want to be the best because they are, by nature, competitive people. Lindsey wants medals, Julia wants medals—but they both want the US as a country to get medals too.
At what point does it get difficult to continue cheering on a teammate? For Julia, certainly it comes when you feel like the Olympics have turned into a popularity contest. “People are having a hard time reaching their potential because it’s such a struggle for attention. You come to meetings after races and it’s like it’s a bad day if Lindsey didn’t do well,” Julia said.
It’s true that Lindsey Vonn, “America’s sweetheart” (that doesn’t help), is the “Wheaties Box” type idol that tends to absorb the attention of media, and thus, the public. Julia’s medals have certainly garnered attention, but not the attention Lindsey would have received had she medaled in every event.
The whispered about tension between the two skiers surfaced when Julia made this comment to Sports Illustrated: “It’s such a popularity contest. Our team is struggling, as a group”.
This hurt Lindsey, who feels she did not intentionally bring about any imbalance of team unity. “I try to support Julia as much as I support all the other team mates. I have been racing with Julia since I was a little kid and yes we are competitors but I always support her and it has definitely hurt me that she has said some negative things about me.
“All I can do is continue to support her like I always have done and hope that she reciprocates that.
“I am always proud that an American is doing well and I was proud of her for being on the podium in downhill in super combined and it just bums me out,” she said.
Although it was no fault of Lindsey’s, Julia’s first run in today’s Olympic Giant Slalom event was put at a severe disadvantage by Lindsey’s fall. Julia was next to go, and no one stopped her from going. She was having a good run when suddenly she was flagged to stop because Lindsey had not yet left the course. She then had to be flown back to the start via helicopter, and by the time she skied down again, the course was shredded and in terrible condition (several other racers had gone). Julia said: “I wanted to finish. I was having a great run and wish I could have come down and not have her be flagged and that is absolutely not what I wanted – it happened, all you can do is deal with the hand that you are dealt.”
Lindsey of course, felt horribly about the incident: “I feel terrible for Julia, it is absolutely not what I wanted. I wanted to finish, I wanted to have a good run and by no means wanted that to happen to Julia.
“All I can say is that I feel terrible and really hope she can ski the way she has been skiing and hopefully have a good second run and punch it back in there,” Lindsey told reporters.
However, then she added something she didn’t have to add: “I know that she is mad and probably frustrated and probably mad at me but I can’t help that I fell.”