Mancuso, Kildow & Vonn

Over wings at Sushi Yoshi, my ski sister and I were talking about how skiing went with her seven year old daughter today. They were practicing whirlie birds on RamsHead. Somehow we ended up in a debate about Julia Mancuso versus Lindsay Vonn as role models for young female ski racers. I was kind of surprised that we were on opposite ends of this discussion, but for the same reasons: we both felt that our athlete represented a strong female.  But there is a third athlete hidden here: the Lindsey Kildow that lies stored away underneath
From Hometown Girl...
 When she first appeared on the scene, I was a Lindsey Kildow fan. She showed such a tough and dedicated work ethic, similar to Peekaboo Street and Diane Roffe-Steinrotter. She was big and strong, without making any apologies for her six to eight hour a day training regimen and her total commitment to ski racing. Mancuso, on the other hand, seemed to be having too much fun, running around with tiaras and beads instead of focusing on her run. The media loved this charismatic racer, getting caught up in her magical Aspen smile and costume jewelry from her Junior racing days.  There was no analysis of her training program, no interviews with the other racers who worked just as hard (if not harder).  The other competitors tried in vain to break into the media attention.  But in the end, it was Julia's enjoyment of the sport of skiing that put her on the podium while a driven, brunette tomboy named Kildow sulked angrily in the background. Playboy Bunny

Four years later, we saw a Julia that had remained true to her original identity, while the new Mrs. Timothy Vonn showed up looking like the finished product from TLC's What Not to Wear. Now bleach blonde and in full make-up, Mrs. Vonn appeared in Sports Illustrated, exposing most of herself in bikini clad photos in a pathetic attempt to demonstrate that she, too, could be sexy and feminine. While her husband's training program for her is truly impressive and her downhill runs and recoveries are honestly amazing for a female athlete, I felt that Mrs. Vonn had sold her soul for some big corporate sponsorships and media attention instead of just focusing on the internal drive that had gotten her to the top in the first place.  It seemed almost as if women's ski racing was no longer about who skied the fastest, but who looked the best in the finish corral.

So who is the better role model for today's young female racets and ski bum wanna-bees? Is it the fun loving and free spirited Julia Mancuso, a ski princess in her own right? Is it the powerfully aggressive Mrs. Timothy Vonn, so blindly driven for sucess that she must change her entire image and personality? Or, was it the young Lindsey Kildow, so innocently dedicated to skiing that she didn't even have time to notice her appearance in the mirror?  Despite the frivolous tiara, I would rather be the mentally balanced Julia. I don't care how good you are - if you need to dye your hair and put on full makeup before running your race, you are missing the point of skiing and have lost yourself in the commercialism. I would rather our young lady skiers stay strong in who they are as individuals and ENJOY THE SPORT OF SKIING, no matter what place they finish. On the course and in training, there are many things that young athletes can learn from Mrs. Vonn, but I would much rather they find self-confidence in being themselves rather than changing who they are to fit the corporate sponsorship plan.