A Boston Blickbild Exclusive
The Boston Blickbild is known for its interviews. But we at the Blickbild are not afraid to try new things and have done this piece in the style of a traditional news story. We are still upholding our high journalistic standards and maintaining our reputation as the one who will print the stories that nobody else will. Hopefully our readers will enjoy this story as much as they do our exclusive interviews.
SCHLADMING, Austria: After a tense 3-month standoff, the Austrian women have finally given in to the demand from the International Skiing Federation (FIS) to give skier Lindsey Vonn all of the medals that they will earn at the World Championships in Schladming, which will open on Monday. FIS officials were afraid that the championships would have to be cancelled because the Austrian women wanted to keep their medals instead of giving them to Vonn. But thanks to some clever negotiations, the Austrian women have capitulated and the championships can go on as scheduled.
The idea of giving Vonn medals started with her best, and only, friend on the World Cup circuit, German skier Maria Hoefl-Riesch. She said, “I still feel guilty about what happened in Lenzerheide two seasons ago, when I won the overall World Cup globe by 3 points after the final race was cancelled due to the weather. I wanted to do something to make my friend feel better after everything that she has been through with her divorce, tax problems, stomach aches, and depression. I thought it would make her feel good if I gave her any gold medals that I earn in Schladming. I know that she would never do the same for me, but sometimes in a friendship, one person must give more.”
Hoefl-Riesch’s idea of giving Vonn her gold medals very quickly spread to other skiers. Vonn’s teammate Julia Mancuso and British skier Chemmy Alcott were the next to pledge to give any gold medals that they earn to Vonn. Mancuso and Alcott know all about helping others. They were the founders of the Skiers Helping Japan charity, which aided victims of the devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Once Mancuso and Alcott got involved, word spread quickly and the female skiers participating in the World Championships vowed to give their gold medals to Vonn.
One of Vonn’s public relations spokesmen, who chose to remain anonymous, said that this was not good enough. He said that Vonn’s legacy must exceed that of former champion Anja Paerson, who is the only skier in history, male or female, to earn gold medals in all five disciplines at the world championships. The spokesman said, “Even if Lindsey gets all of the gold medals, she will only tie Paerson’s accomplishment. Lindsey needs something to completely obliterate Paerson from the record books and establish the Vonn legacy. Any Alpine skier who earns a medal, whether it’s gold, silver, or bronze, must give her medal to Lindsey. That way Lindsey will have earned every medal possible at a world championship. Nobody will ever be able to match that achievement and it will stand in the record books forever. ” The spokesman also brought up the 2010 Olympics, where Vonn brought her downhill gold medal to the Super-G award ceremony and was criticized for it. Vonn won a bronze medal in the Olympic Super-G. “Now if Lindsey earns a silver or bronze medal, she will also have a gold medal to go along with it. There is no way anybody can say she is doing anything wrong or tacky at the award ceremony.”
All of the other women on the World Cup circuit, except for the Austrians, enthusiastically endorsed giving their medals to Vonn. World Cup overall leader Tina Maze of Slovenia explained why this was such a great idea. “I feel terrible that I am leading the overall standings this year instead of Lindsey. When I think of how I am contributing to her depression, it makes me depressed. So when I heard about the idea of giving Lindsey all of the medals that I earn in Schladming, I knew that it was the right thing to do. It would help to make both of us feel good.” US ski prodigy Mikaela Shiffrin also jumped on the bandwagon to help her teammate. According to Shiffrin, “Lindsey feels so bad because I’m getting a lot of media attention for my achievements. She is out of the limelight and it makes her angry and upset. Giving her any medals that I earn will turn the attention back to her, where it rightfully belongs.”
Even the men got into the act. Mancuso’s boyfriend, Norwegian skier Aksel Lund Svindal, thought that giving Vonn all of his medals was a splendid idea. Svindal, who is known for his sportsmanship, said, “I thought that my Olympic bronze medal was special because Kjetil (teammate Kjetil Jansrud) was on the podium with me. But I was wrong. Any medal that I earn in Schladming will be even more special because I will give it to Lindsey in order to make her feel good and to make it easier for Julia in team meetings. I will be helping two people simultaneously.” Austrian Marcel Hirscher, last season’s World Cup overall champion, also got his fellow men to donate their medals to Vonn. “If I can give my race winnings to Italian earthquake victims,” he said, “I can certainly give Lindsey all of my world championship medals. She is a more worthy cause than people who lost everything in an earthquake. There is nothing in this world worse than depression and belly aches.” Even injured Swiss sensation Beat Feuz had something to say. “I wish that I wasn’t injured this season so that I could compete in Schladming and give Lindsey all of my medals. I know she would really appreciate that.”
Still, the Austrian women adamantly refused to give any medals to Vonn. Anna Fenninger, the 2011 World Championship super-combined gold medalist, summed up the Austrian position. “First she disrespected us women by saying that she wanted to ski with men because we were too boring. Then she wants us to hand over the medals that we earn. Forget it!” Fenninger’s teammate Michaela Kirchgasser had an even stronger stance. “First she expected to get 2000 points and all 5 globes this season. Then she wanted to race against men and beat them. If she is so great, she should be able to earn medals in Schladming without any help from us. She won’t get any of my medals.” Elisabeth Goergl, the veteran member of the Austrian team, and the 2011 World Championship gold medalist in downhill and Super-G, also had some choice words for Vonn. “When Lindsey can beat us women in every race by huge margins, then she is worthy of my medals. Until then, she must earn them the old-fashioned way like the rest of us.”
To get the Austrian women to change their position, many unsuccessful tactics were tried. First the FIS threatened to give the ladies, even the top-ranked ones, start numbers of 60 and over in races. That threat failed when the FIS officials looked in their rule book and found that they legally could not do that. Then they called the skiers’ sponsors to have them withdraw their support. That also failed because they receive most of their support from the Austrian Ski Federation. The FIS threatened to take away all of the skiers’ World Cup points, but still the Austrian women did not budge. Threats to demote all of the women to the Nor-Am circuit (an FIS spokesman reasoned that the Europa Cup circuit would be too close to home) also did not work. Even when the FIS said that it would have special voodoo dolls of the Austrian women’s team made, the ladies were still unfazed.
Red Bull and HEAD, Vonn’s main sponsors, decided to try convincing the Austrian women to change their minds. Mafia enforcer Vinnie “The Shark” Razzovelli was summoned. Within minutes, the whole Austrian women’s team agreed to give all of its world championship medals to Vonn. Fenninger explained the team’s quick turnaround. “It’s hard to argue when someone is pointing a gun at my kneecaps. I treasure my knees more than medals. If Lindsey really wants all of my medals that badly, she can have them.” Fenninger’s teammates had the same reaction and they all signed a binding pledge to give all of their medals to Vonn.
Now that all of the skiers, male and female, plan to give all of their medals to Vonn, the 2013 World Championships in Schladming will be the most exciting ones ever. The Blickbild will be in Schladming reporting all of the action on and off the slopes.
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