Lindsey Vonn works to grow her sport
November 20, 2009
COPPER MOUNTAIN – Following a World Cup race in Europe last year, Lindsey Vonn was attempting to leave the finish area while being escorted by five body guards. Suddenly, the crowd caved in around her, forcing her convoy to a stop.
“There were so many people grabbing at me, grabbing at my hat, grabbing at my clothes. It was pretty scary,” she said.
Though that wasn’t exactly an ideal situation for Vail’s World Cup champion alpine racer, it certainly helped to demonstrate the passion for ski racing that fans have on the other side of the pond.
And as Vonn stood in relative anonymity at the base of Copper Mountain Thursday after a training session, the scene from Europe also shows a bleak contrast to the interest Vonn’s sport generates in the States.
“In Europe there’s constantly people – they know who I am – so I’ll get stopped in the street,” Vonn said. ” … In the U.S., like the Aspen World Cup, there’s just not as many people there.
“It’s different, but both are unique and special.”
However, Vonn’s main goal for her career – that is, apart from adding more medals and crystal globes to her trophy shelf – is to help her sport become mainstream in her home country.
“I think ski racing is, unfortunately not one of the most popular sports in the U.S.,” she said. ” … What I’m trying to do this year, and in my whole career, is to try to make ski racing more mainstream and exciting. It’s definitely a sport worth watching.”
The slalom and GS races at Aspen’s Winternational World Cup event (Nov. 28-29) should be a good start.
In last year’s event, Vonn, known more as a speed specialist, finished fourth in both races. This year, she’s not only hoping for better results but also to give American fans something exciting to watch in the lone women’s World Cup race in the U.S.
“I feel like it’s the one chance I can really show Americans what ski racing is and how well the Americans are doing,” she said.
” I really enjoy Aspen because my friends and family are there, my ‘Vonntourage.’ … That gets me motivated and fired up to do well for them and do well for the home crowd,” Vonn added.
She is certain to have a healthy following in Aspen, as Vonn’s celebrity has grown in Colorado.
Vonn said while living in Vail she is regularly recognized by fans and fellow skiers.
“I love being in Colorado, and it’s definitely a more ski-oriented state,” she said. “Everyone seems to follow it and know who I am. It’s nice, and I like that.”
And, as if on cue, a young skier at Copper came up to Vonn to ask for a hug. She obliged. After all, every little bit helps in growing a fan base – even if it’s one hug at a time.
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