Olympic Star Skier Lindsey Vonn: Can She Be Both Role Model and Swimsuit Model?

340x_vonn_01Shock horror! The U.S. Olympic team’s star skier Lindsey Vonn is not only an incredible athlete, but she’s also taken (gasp) endorsement money and (gasp, gasp) posed scantily clad in Sports Illustrated.  Does the fact that she’s a swimsuit model negate her value as a role model?

As we wait on pins and needles (and weather) to see how injured Olympic darling Lindsey Vonn will fare in the women’s alpine opener,  we have down time to contemplate her recent  shin vs. skin headlines.  With a potentially Olympic-dream-breaking injury, there’s been an endless stream of “Will she or won’t she compete” speculation.  With her recent Sports Illustrated swimsuit photo spread, there’s also been a pretty steady stream of “why is she objectifying herself in a bikini?”  talk as well.   So what’s a hot, blonde, athlete to do? And how are we supposed to feel about all of this?

Observing from the sidelines (as both woman and mother), my knee jerk reaction was “Shame on you Lindsey.  Put some clothes on.” I couldn’t help it – I looked from the Sports Illustrated cover she graced one week (an honor), to the infamous bathing suit edition (exploitation?) she was in the following week and wished it was only her athletic achievement in the spotlight — Not just for me, but for my impressionable kids who are following the winter games with gusto.

But it was really a “shame on me” moment — I never would have felt this way if it was a male athlete stripping down to sell himself or someone’s product. The list is long of shirtless, beefcake male Olympians (not to mention the regular pro’s out there) and I certainly never complained when Michael Phelps found any (and every) opportunity to show some skin.   Never.

I also had to take a step back and acknowledge that Lindsey had only posed in a bikini (for a sports magazine!) and that this wasn’t former Olympians Amanda Beard or Katerina Witt posing in the buff as they did for Playboy.   Also, as Lindsey’s teammate, Kaylin Richardson said,

“To see a beautiful athlete among all those rail-thin models… She’ll have those pictures all her life. Her kids can say, ‘Mom was super hot and super fast.’”

I’m with Kaylin – despite the fact that there are definitely mixed messages here to deal with,  I think we have to accept and celebrate Lindsey as super hot and super fast. It’s the way it is in our culture that unfortunately gives equal weight to beauty as it does to ability and talent.

Let’s just hope that nasty shin injury heals so she has the option to be both.

*And let’s hope she doesn’t pose for Playboy…then all bets are off.

Photo source: Sports Illustrated

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