By Katie Kieffer
Wouldn’t it be fun to shred the U.S. recession into oblivion the way a skier shreds the Jackson Hole gnar gnar? It would be as exhilarating as finding a cure to cancer – on an economic level. Well, the U.S. does have a nearly fail-proof template to follow for ending the recession and creating jobs: Lindsey Vonn.
Vonn is often hyped for her amicable personality and good looks. Lost in this hype is the bigger story: the tale of sheer American grit, rugged persistence, sacrifice and goal-focus. Vonn’s story shows that America can shrug off her recession if she acts like a champion.
Many athletes at one point appeared to be all-around champions, and then disappointed, such as Tiger Woods, Mark McGwire and Marion Jones. But, Vonn is the template we’re looking for. Below is her recipe for bouncing out of recession. Let’s rip.
Champions race when it hurts.
There is a disease in America called apathy. Symptoms include a lack concern for anything deeply meaningful. Apathy is different from liberalism. It is disengagement from the entire civic arena. When you hear someone say something like,”I don’t get into politics. It stresses me out. Besides, Jersey Shore makes me happy,” they’re probably apathetic. We cannot bounce out of recession if we sit and widen our bums while China’s economy grows. We need to get up and take action. A fall, even as big as our economy has taken, is no excuse to disengage.
When Vonn crashed in the 2006 Torino Olympics and was helicoptered away, she was visited by her life-long idol, three-time Olympian, Picabo Street, in the hospital. Street bluntly told Vonn, “A real champion would get up and race.” Vonn proved her metal by racing two days later in excruciating pain and still finishing eighth overall.
When Vonn fell again in the Feb. 2, 2010 pre-Vancouver Olympics practice run in Austria and badly bruised her shin, she didn’t have a bailout. As loved as she is, there was no sponsor, no coach, no friend who could do it for her. Last week in Vancouver, she was not even able to take an injection to fully dull her pain, but has had to suffer through with ordinary painkillers to avoid violating Olympic antidoping guidelines. Still, she plans to grit her teeth, and race.
Likewise, the U.S. can stand up and race her way back to the top if she is able to handle some pain and stops trying to mask it with government stimulus packages, proven to fail.
Champions are coachable
“Don’t hunch over,” Street recalls telling the young Vonn. “Stand up straight. Stand tall. Be proud.” Vonn has made a concerted effort throughout her career to reach out to other champion skiers, like Street, and model her game after their success. Once-respected champions like Tiger Woods fell from favor with fans and sponsors partly because they became so self-absorbed that they forgot to listen to reason and wisdom.
Vonn is almost always accompanied by her husband, coach and spokesman, Thomas Vonn. Rather than imitating Woods and filling her mobile phone with the contacts of hot ski-patrols, Vonn works hand-in-hand with Thomas Vonn to achieve success. Vonn also has a deep respect for other members of her “team,” including her ski technician and communicates frequently and openly with them.
Similarly, the U.S. could recover from economic wipe-out if our elected officials would start listening to their best coaches, constituents. Americans are tired of government spending, bribery and growth. We want the government to start listening to us, and to our small businesses.
Champions work hard
Lindsey Vonn does a lot of behind-the-scenes hard work for her big wins. Vonn’s professionalism and work ethic are extraordinary. Her “ski man,” Heinz Haemmerle says, “She’s very focused on where she wants to get. She wants to win every race,” he says. “I get so many informations from her about skis.”
Unlike many super-star skiers, Vonn goes the extra mile and provides her ski trainer with detailed notes every day. Vonn has made notes after skiing in different weather conditions and she tried between 20 and 25 different skis in 2009. In skiing, even a fraction of a second can make a difference, and she puts in the work necessary to conquer time. “I never had anybody else do this,” says Haemmerle. “After each run on the chair or whatever, she writes it down. It’s very professional. Every day she makes her notes.” And, Haemmerle is no newcomer to the sport. He is the “best available” ski technician.
Washington could take a lesson from Lindsey’s work ethic. Instead of blowing up the budget, Washington needs to do its homework, treat the American people like a team, as Vonn treats Haemmerle, and be transparent about new legislation instead of bribing Senators to clandestinely pass unfavorable health care “reforms” on Christmas Eve.
The U.S. can take inspiration from Vonn’s willingness to put in the extra effort to come up from behind to become the strongest female skier in the world:
Some argue that Julia Mancuso, another member of the U.S. Ski Team, who won gold in the giant slalom in Turin, was the “naturally gifted junior, a fine all-round skier who occasionally took her talent for granted.“ Today, “Lindsey Vonn” is practically a household name and Mancuso has faded to oblivion. I think this is because Vonn spent the past four years working hard in a challenging Austrian-based training program, mastering men’s skis, and focusing on developing as a skier, while Moncuso proclaimed that, “I think underwear is my calling” and channeled part of her time away from the slopes to develop a lingerie line called Kiss My Tiara.
Unsurprisingly, rugged grit and persistent hard work proved a better strategy than living like a ski princess since Vonn, not Mancuso, emerged to become the most decorated American female skier in World Cup history, winning back-to-back overall World Cup championships in 2008 and 2009.
Likewise, the U.S. can no longer flaunt herself as the “biggest and the best” – she has to go out there and prove herself again on the world stage. But, in order for this to happen, big government needs to step out of the way and give individuals, banks and small businesses breathing room.
Champions make sacrifices for their goal
Luck is not a strategy to win. Having fun is not a strategy for success. Blood, sweat and tears are.
Think of how much sacrifice goes into being an Olympic skier. You never have an off-season. For four years you are working towards a few minutes on the slopes. Vonn often sacrifices leisure to achieve her goals. According to Parade, ‘Between practicing, competing, eating, and sleeping, it’s tough to work it (watching other Olympic events) in. “I highly doubt that I’ll have time to watch any other events, but if I get a chance, I would really like to watch figure skating. Or maybe speedskating. We have a lot of pressure, a lot of obligations.”‘
Like Vonn, the U.S. can use setbacks to grow stronger. “It is important to note that Vonn always comes through. She has skied with an injured hand taped to one of her ski poles and still won. Her back was a mess after the fall in Turin and still she competed. If she can stand up, she’ll attempt to make it down the hill,” the Pioneer Press reports.
Americans have something special. We have a unique Constitution that provides opportunity, independence and freedom for all. As long as we uphold the Constitution and respect the proven success of capitalism and the free markets, our economy will flourish. But, if the U.S. continues to increase its dependence on unnatural governmental supplements, such as bailouts and stimulus packages, it will perpetuate its floundering economy.
Similarly, Vonn’s sacrifice and focus has made her so strong that Street says of Vonn’s Olympic odds, “As embarrassing as it is for the rest of ‘em, I’m sorry but, yes, she can spank you on 80 percent.“
Similarly, America is bruised and her economy is in a sling, but she need to grit her teeth and deal with some of the pain of this recession in order to move forward. As Glenn Beck implies nearly daily on his radio show, it will hurt Americans a lot more if we allow government to grow bigger and rely on Washington to patch up our oozing economic wounds with freshly printed junk dollar bills.
Ultimately, whether Vonn, who is still experiencing “throbbing” pain when she skis, but plans to “grit my teeth and fight through it on Wednesday,” wins five, one or zero gold medals in Vancouver, she has proven herself on the world stage. Vonn is a champion.
Take on the recession like a Vonn, America.
Additional articles cited for this piece:
St. Paul Pioneer Press: “Vonn will try to ski today,” by Frank Fitzpatrick on Feb. 2, 2010. “NOT AGAIN!,” by Tom Powers on Feb. 11, 2010, “Shin injury and all” by Tom Powers and “Street: Vonn can still win” from the Associated Press on Feb. 12, 2010.