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Olympic blog: No more questions

Nate Peterson
aspen times
Lindsey Vonn of the United States reacts during a news conference after winning the gold medal in the Women's downhill event, at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics in Whistler, British Columbia, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2010. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP | AP

Lindsey Vonn finally had her gold medal. She wanted to celebrate. Instead, she got stuck talking to reporters for three straight hours after getting asked to pee in a cup.

After being a part of that on Wednesday, I’m really starting to wonder who had the better day Thursday: Julia Mancuso, who had to do another run through the press gauntlet after winning another silver? Or Vonn, who got to miss out on the three press conferences and innumerable interviews required of Olympic medal winners after blowing her slalom run in the combined?

Welcome to life inside the ropes at the world’s least fun red carpet.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m one of those journalists in the press corral, looking for quotes for my story that I’m writing on deadline. I’m blown away by the way these Olympics have accommodated journalists and allowed them the access and resources to do their jobs. The media venues here are the best in the world. It’s a far cry from other events I’ve covered where we’re treated only a little better than the hired help.

But what went down Wednesday was excessive. It was leeches sucking the life out of something beautiful, vultures picking apart a great story until the meat was no longer fresh.

Everybody happy now? Got what you need?

At the end, I felt dirty having been a part of it.

Here was Vonn, America’s downhill darling, on the most important day of her life, forced to endure being asked the same questions five, six times, by people who had already heard her repeat the same thing just 30 seconds earlier.

She was asked about how much her shin hurt. She was asked how much it was going to hurt later. She was asked what other things she was putting on it other than lidocaine, ice, and cheese. She was asked how much this day meant to her. She was asked about what it meant to her, considering the outsized expectations. And what it meant to her, considering who was on the podium with her. And what it meant to her considering the scary shin injury. And then she was asked how much her shin really hurt. Again. And again. And again.

Lindsey, one more question please?

Talk about the stuff Olympic dreams aren’t made of.

You often hear athletes being compared to pieces of meat, but I’ve never seen a worse example.

This was a cattle auction, and everybody got a chance to prod the day’s big prize.

Mancuso had to endure just about the same. After competition, each athlete at every venue is forced to wonder through the cruel maze that is the “mixed zone.” First they have to stand for the broadcasters, who capture their faces and their sound bites on camera. Then it’s the corral for the press agencies: AP, Reuters, Canadian Press, etc. Then the rest of the print writers, the leftovers who’ve already gotten the quotes given out to the agencies, and yet still come looking for fresh material.

Then, for the medalists, it’s on to the post-race press conference. And then, for Vonn and Mancuso, if that wasn’t enough, there was a conference call with off-site reporters and then another presser down at the main Whistler media center.

Can I get my medal now, please?

This is the business of news. Everyone is looking for that one great angle, that something that nobody else has. Every journalist believes they can ask the right question that will open the door to some added insight. Though, with everybody else listening in, what makes us think we’re hearing something different than what everybody else is? And with Vonn, really, how much more is there to uncover? Her whole life, her dreams, her disappointments, the estrangement from her father, it’s all out there, in magazines, newspapers, the Internet.

We know this story. It’s even been translated in 50 different languages.

And yet we kept asking questions Wednesday, myself included. We didn’t know when to stop. We had to have someone cut us off, pull us away, or else we might have been there all night.

We took license to think that Vonn’s golden moment was also our moment to shine.

Not that there weren’t great stories that came out the race. There were.

Great, compelling writing that captured the drama and excitement of the day. Insightful, can’t-put-down stories from the world’s best sportswriters.

But really, did we need to ask her about her shin umpteen times to get that?

I think not.

For other insight from the Winter Olympics, check out Nate’s blog underneath Local Olympic Coverage under the Sports tab on the home page. You can also follow him at Twitter @N8Peterson.


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