There is still one American hero

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This past year, I have written too many columns about fallen heroes. Men and women who have disappointed us.  I won't use this space to name them since we all know who they are.

Instead, I was hoping I could point to someone who is a champion and with his/her deeds has provided us with inspiration. Finally, while having dinner one night with Steve Nober of Calabasas, California, he suggested Lindsey Vonn.

I knew a little about Lindsey, but was delighted to find out about her many challenges. I once was deeply involved with U.S Skiing Team and had followed the exploits of the history of American Women in skiing since the 1950's; I decided I would write about her and American Women Skiers in general.

I represented the U.S. Ski Team in 1978.  They had just split from being part of the US Ski and Snowboarding Association and were on their own in what was then the sleepy town of Park City.  When Marty Groothuis and I went to sign them up, the sidewalks were still made of wood slats.

We represented them for all merchandising and marketing.  Earlier, through the CBS TV Show "Challenge of the Sexes" which Tommy Cook and I created, we were able to bring what was called, at that time, "Hot Dog Skiing" to Network TV. Today, it is known as Aerial Skiing. Aerial Skiing is only a small, but a significant part of the "X" Games.

Our show's  co-host in the first year along with the great Vin Scully was skiing's golden girl at the time, Suzie Chaffee. Known to the world as "Suzy Chapstick". Suzie at the time was the World's reigning freestyle champion.

 She achieved her nickname because she was the blond, blue eyed, spokesperson for Chapstick.  Part of the proceeds from her commercials went to benefit the US Ski team. Suzie used her image to champion Title IX legislation (equal opportunity for woman in school sports).

I can remember how proud we New Englanders were when a young girl   from Vermont named Andrea Mead Lawrence made the National Ski Team at the young age of 14.  Five years later, she went on to win two gold medals in the 1952 Winter Olympics at Oslo, Norway.  The first American Woman to ever capture two Gold Medals.  

In the years, since 1952, only six women have brought home a single gold to the United States. In each case, that was individually their most significant achievement in the world of skiing. Then along comes Lindsey Vonn.

No American Woman has ever dominated world skiing, the way Lindsey has since 2008. She has won the World Cup 3 consecutive years. In one of the most grueling of physical challenges, she has emerged victorious so many times.

At the end of 2012, this 29 year old had amassed over 50 victories. Part of that total was 33 World Cup victories (through 2012) and 25 career downhill victories. This is the most ever for both men and women. Along the way, she eclipsed American Bode Miller.

More importantly, she skied at times returning from a concussion, or with a fractured arm encased in plaster. Yet, she won 3 straight downhill titles. She has been almost unstoppable.

2013 has seen her continue her dominance. Like Suzie before her, she carries the banner of America high and when not skiing is constantly lending her name and person to worthwhile causes. Just last week she won the Giant Slalom at Maribor, Slovenia. The Associated Press and the Skieur d'or Award by the International Association of Ski Journalists have named her Sportswoman of the Year by the Olympic Committee, Female Athlete of the Year.

With her Blond hair and Blue Eyes, she will become more recognizable both through skiing and commercial endeavors. We should take pride in  that we have such standard bearer for the rest of the world to admire.

Lindsey Vonn deserves our praise, not just because she is a great athlete, but also because of what she does away from the slopes, makes her even more special. She brings America respect on the World Stage.




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Shelly Saltman has been in the sports world as an executive, TV producer, broadcaster and event creator for more than 50 years. Among his credentials are his work with Muhammad Ali and Evel Knievel, the numerous network TV shows he produced and created, NBA/NHL management roles, co-creator of the Amgen Tour of California and as the first president of Fox Sports. He lives in Ventura County.