Vonn Too Special an Athlete for This SI Cover

Hosted by

This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and this is The Score.

The skating and skiing of the Vancouver Winter Olympics begin this weekend. The two marquee names among the U.S. athletes in Canada are snowboarder Shaun "the flying tomato" White and downhill/slalom champion Lindsey Vonn. This is Vonn's third Olympics but this time she's at the top of her game and the pressure is great for her to achieve her potential of medals in all five of her events. Unfortunately, she sustained a deep shin bone contusion during a training run last week and is not 100% sure she'll be able to go full throttle, especially in the slalom events where sharp curves around the markers require the boot to press heavily on the shin area. She may suffer through pain injections right into the thin tissue of the shin area. She may try some thick padding in her boot. She's day-to-day at the moment and welled up with tears at one of this week's press conferences, obviously crushed that her time, her peak, may be in jeopardy.

It's always a deep disappointment when an athlete faces an injury just before or during a major competition. What a shame it was to see Rafael Nadal unable to continue through the just-finished Australian Open due to knee pain. And who knows? Dwight Freeney's torn knee ligament that limited his pass defense against the Saints in Sunday's Super Bowl, just could have been the factor that cost the Indianapolis Colts the game. Nevertheless, the Australian Open and the Super Bowl come around every year, whereas the Olympics are a long four years apart. When an Olympian is injured on the eve of her fragile window of performance time, it is more than disappointing. It borders on devastating.

So Lindsey Vonn is up in Vancouver, tending to her shin and I'm sure has little time or energy to tend to any of her other life issues. She's appearing prominently in two current issues of Sports Illustrated, for instance, both blogged about animatedly over the last week.

One of the Vonn images is in the always-controversial February swim suit issue. Like it or not, the tradition of skinny models in skimpy bikinis in exotic locales has been S.I.'s bread-and-butter winter issue dating way back to 1964. Every year, irate subscribers cancel their loyalties, proclaiming that if they want skin and sex, they don't want to find it in their revered sports magazine. In 1978, for instance, Cheryl Tiegs' white fishnet top revealed so much as to provoke 340 cancelled subscriptions.

Athletes are fairly new to the swim suit edition and Lindsey Vonn's suggestive pose, bikini bottom tugged down in the current issue, is one of them. Countless Facebook and Twitter reactions to that photo abound. But the minefield lies in her current Sports Illustrated cover shot, an issue that previews the Winter Games. Here is the first US woman to win back-to-back World Championships, not in a flurry of slashed snow, shoulder brushing the gates, whipping down a steep slope at 65 miles per hour, but rather buttocks jutted unnaturally toward the sky, no helmet, and a come-hither gaze sideways toward the lens. This isn't just a sexist shot. It's a ridiculously silly shot, unworthy of the greatest American skier in history.

A mere 4% of Sports Illustrated covers have featured women and they are historically not gritty action moments, but highly sexualized, Playboyesque poses. And now champion Lindsey Vonn joins that inglorious group.

But Lindsey's not concerned about her image at this moment. It's that shin and the mountains outside Vancouver that have her undivided attention. Personally, I have no opinion about her swim suit issue shot, but I do wish she had stood strong and not approved of the S.I. cover shot. The shot is not Olympian, but if Lindsey can compete for Olympic gold, her performances will be.

This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and that's The Score.



Diana Nyad