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Lindsey Vonn: Sport’s least recognised superstar?

February 13, 2011 Leave a comment

The sporting world is bursting to full with superstars who enjoy worldwide fame. Cristiano Ronaldo, Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant, Roger Federer, Manny Pacquiao, Serena Williams… the list goes on. This Monday gone (7th February) the galaxy of stars came out to play at the sporting world’s equivalent of the Oscars, the Laureus World Sports Awards. Amongst the winners in Abu Dhabi were household names such as the Spanish National Football Team, Rafael Nadal and Zinedine Zidane, but the winner of the Sportswoman of the Year award had many people asking: ‘Lindsey who?’

This may seem slightly unfair but the recipient of the award is a classic example of somebody who competes in a sport which is not mainstream in most countries. Lindsey Vonn is however, a genuine sporting superstar and fully deserving of the award.

For those who are not aware, Vonn is the world’s leading female skier by some distance and arguably the biggest name in the sport, male or female. She has been nominated for the Laureus Sportswoman of the Year award on two previous occasions in 2009 and 2010 before making it third time lucky and winning the prestigious gong for her exploits in 2010.

2010 was always going to be a big year for Vonn with the Winter Olympics in Vancouver and she made sure it was a memorable one. However, things did not go to plan in Canada as a combination of uncharacteristic errors and injury meant that Vonn did not achieve the medal haul she, and many others, expected.  She announced that she would compete in five events at the Olympics, but just a week before her first event was due to begin, she revealed she was carrying a shin injury which was causing her serious pain. The American refused to give in and battled her way to an impressive gold medal in the Downhill, finishing over half a second ahead of fellow Team USA skier Julia Mancuso. Thereafter however, things went downhill (if you will pardon the pun). In her second event, the Super-Combined, Vonn led after the downhill section but crashed out during the slalom. Her third event was the Super-G and despite not skiing as aggressively as she can, Vonn managed a bronze medal.

Lindsey Vonn shows off the gold medal she won in Vancouver (This image is the property of AFP)

Following this bronze medal, the games’ star attraction moved on to the Giant Slalom where she once again crashed out, breaking a finger in the process. Things did not improve in her final event, the slalom, as she straddled a gate and was consequently disqualified. Despite returning from Vancouver with a gold and a bronze, Vonn’s games were seen as something of a disappointment, but being the professional she is, she refused to blame injury.

The fact that an Olympic gold medal and a bronze medal are seen as an underachievement is testament to Vonn’s talent and her overall season’s results leave no doubt that she is currently the world’s most dominant skier.

A career best 11 wins netted her the Overall World Cup Title, as well as discipline World Cup Titles for Downhill, Super-G and Combined. At the age of just 26, Vonn has 39 World Cup race wins to her name, a record for an American skier male or female, and is only the second woman in history to win three consecutive overall World Cup titles. Don’t bet against her extending this run. 

Vonn is a true superstar in the United States, starring in TV commercials and endorsing several sporting products, most notably Head skis. At the age of 26, she is showing no signs of slowing down and can look forward to many more years of success. The fact that she is affable, good looking and successful should mean that she is a global superstar, especially if one looks at other athletes who share these attributes (Tiger Woods, Oscar de la Hoya, David Beckham), but the non-global nature of her sport means that she will probably never be a globally recognised household name. This is a no fault of her own and it is refreshing to see such a prestigious awards ceremony recognising somebody who excels in a niche sport and is more than worthy of such an award.

For full list of Laureus Award Winners see:  http://www.laureus.com/awards/2011/winners

Lindsey Vonn

Name: Lindsey Caroline Vonn

Place of Birth: St. Paul, Minnesota, United States of America

Nationality: American

Olympic Games Medals: Gold: Downhill, Bronze: Super-G (Vancouver 2010)

World Championship Medals: Gold: Downhill, Super-G (Val d’Isere 2009), Silver: Downhill, Super-G (Are 2007), Downhill (Garmisch 2011)

Personal Awards: 2011 Laureus Sportswoman of the Year

                                    2010 Associate Press Female Athlete of the Year

                                    2010 United States Olympic Committee Sportswoman of the Year

                                    2009 Skier d’Or

Categories: Miscellaneous

Sport Report End of Year Awards

December 30, 2010 Leave a comment

Sportsperson of the Year: Manny Pacquiao (Boxing)

Manny Pacquiao ended 2009 in style with a highly impressive 12th round stoppage victory over the much bigger Miguel Cotto and so 2010 was supposed to be all about a huge showdown with the only other man who can legitimately claim he is the sport’s best; Floyd Mayweather Jr.

What was dubbed the biggest fight in boxing history did not materialise for a whole host of reasons and now looks as if it may well never happen given Mayweather’s ongoing legal woes. This left the boxing world feeling deflated, but Pacquiao handled the disappointment admirably and signed for a fight on March 13th against Joshua Clottey at Cowboys Stadium, Texas.

Despite looking like he was fighting a middleweight, Pacquiao dominated the defensively-minded Ghanaian for 12 lopsided rounds, pitching a shutout on one judge’s card and losing only one round on the other two. Pacquiao once again dazzled with his speed, movement and power and looked every bit the best in the business.

After Mayweather’s May master class against Shane Mosley, hopes for the megafight were rekindled, only to die again very quickly. Consequently, Pacquiao’s promoter Bob Arum arranged for the Filipino to face off against another of his fighters, the disgraced Mexican Antonio Margarito. This fight would see Pacquiao jump up yet another weight division to light-middleweight in search of a title at an eighth weight class.

For at least the fourth time in five fights, many questioned whether Pacquiao would be too small, but that theory was blown out of the water as he used his superior speed, movement and accuracy to deliver a hugely one-sided beating. By the end of the fight, Margarito’s face resembled a butcher’s apron and in the 11th and 12th rounds, a compassionate Pacquiao seemed to be pleading with referee Laurence Cole to stop the contest.

Despite having to deal with the disappointment of the richest fight in boxing history falling through and the pressure of becoming a Congressman in his homeland, Pacquiao delivered two virtuoso performances over two much bigger fighters, barely losing a round along the way. Whilst he may continue to be successful, the Filipino megastar continues to exhibit a human side rarely seen in boxing. His political career is borne out of a desire to help the people of Sarangani Province and the sight of him pleading with Cole to end Margarito’s misery deserves great respect. There is also no doubt that he carried the Mexican towards the end of the contest. He remains humble and personable and this, coupled with his sporting exploits this year, makes him a worthy winner.

Team of the Year: Blackpool FC (Football)

This may seem a strange choice given the successes enjoyed by Internazionale and Spain but one cannot overestimate what Ian Holloway’s men have done. Working on a shoestring budget, Holloway managed to gain promotion for The Seasiders by using excellent man management skills to get every last ounce of quality out of his squad. The players put in the work demanded and reaped the rewards. After a surprise victory over Cardiff City in the playoff final, Blackpool became a town on the Premier League map and it is arguably here that they have achieved the most.

Many sneered at the thought of such a small club with limited funds trying to survive in the Premier League and wrote off Blackpool as a club destined to perform a yo-yo. Some even claimed that they would achieve the lowest points total in the history of the Premier League, but the doubters have been silenced. A highly impressive start to the season, which includes wins at Anfield, St James’s Park and The Stadium of Light, means that The Tangerines are sitting pretty in eighth having amassed 25 points  from 17 games. There is still a long way to go, but if Blackpool continue to play as they have, they can plan for another season of Premiership football.

Their most important achievement has been that they have showed other teams coming up to English football’s top tier how to play. They have refused to lie down and be beaten before a ball has been kicked and judging by results in the Premiership this season, it is an attitude that has rubbed off. Well done to Ian Holloway and his men!

Coach of the Year: Jose Mourinho – Internazionale/Real Madrid (Football)

The Portuguese continues to divide opinion, but his achievements cannot be doubted. This year, in what was effectively his only season at Internazionale with a team he put together, he won the treble. Before Mourinho’s arrival in Milan, the Nerazzuri had a reputation as a team dominant on the home front but which underachieved in Europe. Mourinho ended that spectacularly by delivering the club’s first European Cup win since 1965. As if this were not enough, he also delivered the Scudetto and the Coppa Italia, making Internazionale the first Italian team to ever win the treble. Players such as Samuel Eto’o and Wesley Sneijder enjoyed a new lease of life under Mourinho, showing he is a top level man manager as well as a tactical genius.

Without Mourinho, Inter have struggled to defend their crowns, underlining the importance of the role he played. Mourinho has of course since moved on to pastures new in Madrid where his side is very much in contention to win three trophies, despite a 6-0 mauling by Barcelona last month. The man is a born winner so do not be surprised if Real finally end Barcelona’s recent dominance.

Up-and-coming star of the Year: Kevin Durant (Basketball)

Kevin Durant has had a dream year. The 22 year-old won the NBA scoring Championship, gained plaudits galore, led the USA to the FIBA World Championship title and won the championship MVP in the process. He is also on course for a second consecutive scoring title and is turning Oklahoma in to a force to be reckoned with. In fact, there is undoubtedly a direct correlation between the improvement in the franchise’s fortunes and the upsurge in Durant’s own form. As Durant moved in to the elite player category, the Thunder qualified for their first playoff series with a record of 50-32, something which echoes Lebron James’s early career. Unfortunately for Oklahoma, they met the top seeds and defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers and lost in six games.

At the age of 22, Durant has the world at his feet. Now an NBA superstar with a whopping endorsement contract from Nike to match, he really is close to a complete player. He is able to post up against bigger guys and shoot over the top of smaller guards. He can drive the lane or he can shoot from the perimeter. Perhaps Lebron James and Kobe Bryant are the only players currently in the NBA who are better all-round performers than Durant; that is how good he is.

Can Durant go on and cement his place as a genuine megastar who consistently performs off the charts? If the evidence of 2010 is anything to go by, it looks a nailed on certainty.

Categories: Miscellaneous