Winter Olympics 2018: Rooting against Lindsey Vonn is for losers, America

Lindsey Vonn never made it to the prom. You won't dig up her picture on the internet, in all her awkward teenage glory, like other star athletes such as LeBron James. No dress. No corsage. No forgettable updo.

Nope, Vonn, who finished third in Wednesday's downhill in South Korea in likely her last, best chance to win an Olympic gold medal, never got to go.  

"I didn't go to prom, I didn't go to a regular high school for a year," she told me and a few other reporters nearly 10 years ago after she'd won her second World Cup overall title at just 24. "I sacrificed all these things for skiing."

Lindsey Vonn didn't get to do a lot of stuff that regular American kids do -- like walking in her high school graduation or a freshman year in the dorms at college. Instead, she has done a lot of things that make her quite a remarkable American -- like skiing in her first Winter Olympics, at 17, or winning more World Cup ski races than all but one person on the entire planet. 

So why is it that so many Americans want Lindsey Vonn, the greatest United States skier of all-time, to fail so badly at these Winter Olympics? Make no mistake, there were cheers that went up in living rooms across the country on Tuesday night during NBC's live broadcast when Vonn failed to overtake Italy's Sofia Goggia for the lead after her run, and surely more when Vonn was bumped to third by Norway's Ragnhild Mowinckel.

Americans rooting against a famous American athlete at the Olympics? It's apparently the new national pastime at these Pyeongchang Winter Games -- whether it's Adam Rippon and Gus Kenworthy or the dazzling ice dancing siblings, Alex and Maia Shibutani

Not that Vonn's haters actually know a thing about her, or ski racing, or how much she truly loves representing her country. All that matters to them is what she told a CNN reporter in December, when she was asked, "How would it feel competing at an Olympic Games for a United States whose president is Donald Trump?"

"Well, I hope to represent the people of the United States, not the president," she said. 

"I take the Olympics very seriously, and what they mean and what they represent," she added. "What walking under our flag means at the opening ceremony. I want to represent our country well. I don't think that there are a lot of people currently in our government that do that."

She never mentioned Donald Trump's name. And she later clarified her remarks to Sports Illustrated's Tim Layden, as the backlash grew, stating: "People were calling me un-American or some crazy liberal, which I'm actually not. I was taken aback by the negativity. I love my country. I'm proud of the flag and our troops. Just because I disagree with some things doesn't make me less American."   

No, it doesn't at all. 

But it didn't matter one bit to the sea of trolls who have been living under every single one of Vonn's social media posts during these Olympics. To them, she's a traitor who deserves to lose. She's an "arrogant princess."  She's yet another entitled star athlete who, like LeBron in basketball, should just shut up and ski. 

Or worse, to the trolls, she's a slut, since she dated Tiger Woods for a few years and was the target of a phone hack that led to naked pictures and videos of her hitting the internet. It's all there -- on her Twitter and Instagram feed, or in the comments sections of this site, before getting zapped. 

Thing is, if those same people -- assuming they're not Russian bots -- who are spending so much effort gloating about Vonn's failure to win a gold medal at the Olympics actually took the time to learn anything about her, they'd be hard-pressed to find anything unpatriotic, or entitled, or downright unlikeable about her. 

Take it from someone who's covered her going all the way back to when she was Lindsey Kildow, the pride of Ski Club Vail, with big dreams and an unquenchable drive to be the best in the world.  

Who's the real Lindsey Vonn? She's a girl from Minnesota who, after winning a World Cup race in Val d'Isere France in 2005, opted to keep the prize dairy cow that went to the winner, instead of taking the cash value, like race organizers expected. 

"Well, I picked her over the $5,000 pot because she was really cute," Vonn said in an interview. "I heard before the run that they were giving a cow and that it would be in the finish. I got really excited. I remembering thinking, 'I want a pet cow.' At the prize-giving ceremony, they told me to give the cow back and they'd give me a check. I freaked out at them, 'No! You can't take her away. You said she was my cow!'"

The cow, Olympe, it turns out, was pregnant, so Vonn actually got two cows. Then her two cows had more cows, and now Vonn owns a herd of cows. One's named after her sister, Karin, and two others -- a boy and a girl -- are named after her grandparents, Don and Shirley. She also won a goat once, but she gave it away to a nice French farmer that always bought her fresh baked bread. 

How great is that? A goat for the GOAT of women's ski racing. 

But, no, Lindsey Vonn is an entitled ski brat. It doesn't matter that her grandpa, Don, a Korean war veteran, is the man who got Vonn into skiing, building a ski hill on his land in Wisconsin. Or that she started running gates in her native Minnesota at an old trash dump in Minneapolis. Or that her family would make frequent 16-hour road trips from Minnesota to Vail, Colo., when she was a kid to nurture her Olympic talent before finally making the move full-time. It put a strain on her siblings and her parent's marriage, which eventually ended in divorce, but it was a sacrifice they all made to help Lindsey fulfill her Olympic dreams. 

Doesn't matter, either, that Vonn came into these Olympics vowing to be the oldest woman to win an alpine gold medal for her late grandfather, writing his initials on her ski helmet and tearing up every time someone asked her about him. Somehow wanting to win for a former veteran isn't patriotic enough if you don't want to ski for the president.

"It's been really hard for me not to get emotional for so many reasons, especially because of my grandfather and I wanted to win so much because of him," Vonn said on NBC's live broadcast Tuesday night, fighting back tears. "But I still think I made him proud. Our family never gives up, and I never gave up. I kept working hard, and I'm really proud of this medal and I know he is, too."    

Really, nothing would placate the trolls, real or not, who don't care that Lindsey Vonn has spent literally her whole life training to win the Olympic gold she won in the Vancouver downhill in 2010, but has eluded her three other times. She had a horrendous training crash at the 2006 Turin Olympics, when she was the favorite, that led to her being helicoptered to the hospital. She skied in the downhill a few days later, bruised and battered, and finished eighth. 

She blew out her knee twice and missed the Sochi Olympics in 2014. She has come back from a broken arm, which left her with severe nerve damage, a fractured knee, a broken left ankle, concussions -- plural, let's be honest -- and too many bumps and bruises to count. She severed a tendon in her thumb opening a champagne bottle after winning another race. She also skied to gold in the Vancouver Olympics on a shin so bruised, she couldn't buckle the top of her right ski boot. 

If that isn't the embodiment of determination, perseverance and hard work that make up what it means to be an American, you're an idiot. Like this guy:

Or this dope:  

Yeah, Lindsey Vonn didn't win the gold in downhill at the Pyeongchang Olympics. It's a tough break for the most successful female skier of all-time. But Lindsey Vonn has always been a winner, and she doesn't need anyone to tell her that. Not soccer legend Julie Foudy, who came to her defense on Twitter, or her army of supporters who tried to shoo away the trolls. 

She has given it her all at these Olympics in a performance that should make Americans proud. If you can't see that, well, then, you're a loser. 

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