Skiers understand the capricious nature of fame in a sport that is largely hidden from public view for years at a time. It's all about timing. (And back stories, too, but that's another matter. And sometimes it's about timing and back stories together). You can win all the races you like, on any mountainside in the world, but unless you win at the Olympics, you are anonymous. Ted Ligety knows all about this.
WHISTLER, British Columbia -- Here was a familiar scene: Bode Miller standing benignly on skis at the side of race course, poles dragging in the snow, a look of vague disappointment on his face. He is wearing a racing helmet and speed suit, but he is as still as the pine trees behind him and the plastic gates that line the mountainside, all dressed up with no place to go.
WHISTLER, B.C. -- For the first time in a week, it was snowing Tuesday afternoon in the mountains around Whistler. At least it was trying to snow, as dense, wet flakes turned occasionally to rain and then back again to snow, soaking spectators who were leaving the alpine racing stadium after Carlo Janka's victory for Switzerland in the men's giant slalom. It was a return to the conditions that had postponed the start of ski racing for two days at the beginning of the Games, but it was something else, too: Mancuso Weather.
WHISTLER, B.C. -- The truth? It's tempting to say that we - those of us disseminate our words through magazines, websites, newspapers and television -- missed on Julia Mancuso. That we spent the better part of a year hyping Lindsey Vonn as the star-in-waiting of the 2010 Olympics and cruelly overlooked Mancuso, whose giant slalom gold from Turin in 2006 gave her one more Olympic medal than Vonn had won in two trips to the Games.
Eight months before the Vancouver Games, Lindsey Vonn skis the Olympic downhill in her mind. She is in a subterranean workout room at the Red Bull soccer club's training center in Salzburg, Austria, balanced with each foot on a nylon slack line suspended three feet off the pebbled orange rubber floor. She is crouched in an aerodynamic tuck, her hands thrust out in front of her chin. Trainer Oliver Saringer speaks gently into her right ear: You're on the downhill course at Whistler .... Vonn closes her eyes and begins shifting her weight rhythmically from one foot to the other as if executing high-speed turns on a Canadian mountainside more than 5,000 miles away.
WHISTLER, British Columbia -- Bode Miller's record-breaking bronze medal in Wednesday's Olympic downhill was even more impressive than it initially appeared. Hours after the race, Miller's uncle, Mike Kenney, who is also a coach with the U.S. Ski Team, told SI.com that Miller had undergone arthroscopic knee surgery shortly after Christmas, barely seven weeks before Monday's race. Miller's agent, Lowell Taub, confirmed the surgery in an email exchange on Tuesday.
WHISTLER, British Columbia -- Look at it this way: Ski racers are generally injured so often that half their careers are spent in some combination of pain-management and rehabilitation. And even by those standards Lindsey Vonn is an outlier, with a long and colorful medical history that has alternately compromised her career and elevated her personal mythology. She has a scar somewhere to match every title she's won.
The snowboarding community and the sports world at large have rallied around Kevin Pearce, the 22-year-old Olympic hopeful from Norwich, Vt. who suffered a brain injury during a practice run on the halfpipe last week in Utah and remains in critical condition. As of Tuesday morning, more than 14,000 people signed on to the Facebook group Well Wishes to Our Friend Kevin Pearce. The site has received notes of support from fans and fellow snowboarders, but also from many survivors of traumatic brain injuries who have described the productive lives they now lead.
She's up. She's down. She's up again. The roller coaster ride that is Lindsey Vonn's season rose to its apex again over the weekend, when the defending overall World Cup champion swept three speed races in Haus im Enstal, Austria. Vonn won downhills on Friday and Saturday and captured a Super-G race on Sunday, easing fears that a damaged left arm she'd hurt in a fall last month would impair her Olympic ambitions. The victories boosted her lead in this season's World Cup standings to a robust 192 points ahead of Germany's Maria Riesch.
March gets noisy around now, here in the States. Tickets to the Big Dance are punched daily, brackets are busted, NFL free agents are signing, and veterans are being released or given new life. (Good luck David Carr, and if Eli Manning goes down, I don't want to be you even for one minute). In Florida and Arizona, the regulars are playing deeper into every exhibition game as Opening Day draws near.
U.S. alpine skier Lindsey Kildow has long been burdened by her own promise. She won an international race in Italy at age 14, followed by three medals in the junior world championships. She earned a place on the 2002 Olympic team at age 17 and, six weeks after her 20th birthday, had her first World Cup victory, at a downhill in Canada in December 2004.