Nice Guys (and Gals) Finish First
Lindsey Vonn proves the road to success is paved with kindness BY SHAUNA FARNELL
Riesch, too — could not be more gracious. When the kids at the Austrian
race finish areas never stop screaming “Lindsey!” or “Maria!” (and they
don’t, believe me. It was an incessant chorus after every race), both racers
take the time — even as they’re being hounded by the press — to wave at
the kids and tell them they’ll be over to sign autographs in a minute.
When people are demanding questions of Vonn in German, she skill-
fully answers in kind — in German. I hope the European ski industry
— press, race organizers, everyone — appreciates what a rare skill it is for
an American to speak German fluently (although it doesn’t serve those of
us who don’t speak a lick of it ... maybe people see and hear Lindsey and
assume all of us can casually launch into German).
HAUS IM ENNSTAL, AUSTRIA — The best part of Lindsey Vonn making yet another mark in history is that she deserves every drop of success
she finds. Not just because she’s an amazing skier, but also because she’s
a stand-up human being.
Just before the races that Vonn eclipsed here in Haus, one of the major
Austrian newspapers ran a prominent story saying how much of an advantage Vonn and Maria Riesch have in the World Cup speed events because
of their size. The newspaper ran three large photos of Vonn, Riesch and
Austrian speed skier Andrea Fischbacher, with their height and weight
included. Vonn is 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighs around 160 pounds, Riesch is close to 6 feet tall and weighs about 168 pounds, and Fischbacher,
one of the local favorites in Haus, is just under 5 feet 5 inches and weighs
around 130 pounds.
The last couple of months have also found many of the European rags
suggesting that Vonn has an unfair advantage in the speed events because
she races on men’s skis.
Sorry to anyone trying to find more reasons for why Vonn is so dominant, but there is only one reason. She’s just good. Really, really good.
As for the height and weight idea, even if it works in favor of big racers
like Vonn and Riesch in speed events, how do these people explain how
both of these girls are so good in slalom, a discipline that much better
lends itself to smaller, lighter skiers? The German slalom team, for example, is the best on the circuit and all of its top racers are tanks. Big, tall
girls like Riesch and her sister, Susanne.
Even with some of this nonsense floating around in Europe, Vonn — and
Many racers who reach Vonn’s star status would let it go to their heads,
but not Lindsey. She is quick to return a high five and embark on what
always feels way more like a natural conversation than an interview (it’s
better if you can catch her at a time when a million other people aren’t
trying to talk to her ... which isn’t very often around here). She always
stops to say hello to people she recognizes and acknowledges the needs of
people around her. She really couldn’t be warmer or more approachable.
One of the photographers I met in Haus while taking photos during
the super G inspection was telling me a story about a time he did a yard
sale on the inspection course — last year in Semmering — right in front
of Lindsey and Thomas Vonn. It’s common knowledge that during in-
spection, racers are in deep concentration and can often be annoyed at
photographers and non-racers on the course. But when this guy went
down and his skis went everywhere, Lindsey went to the trouble of stop-
ping whatever she was focused on and picking up one ski and bringing it
down to him while Thomas picked up the other. Not everyone would be
Also in Haus, even though Maria Riesch was disappointed in her run
and a little sad that the weekend didn’t go better for her after she dominated during the tour’s last stop in Haus (she won a downhill and the