Like millions of Americans, Olympic skiing gold medalist Lindsey Vonn, who delivered a classic Winter Games moment with her scintillating downhill run on Wednesday, is insanely curious about one thing on Friday morning: the Tiger Woods press conference. But by the time she walks into a room at the USA House in Whistler for an interview, Woods' nationally televised statement they get NBC's Seattle affiliate up in the Canadian mountains has ended. "I really want to see that now," says Vonn, loose and cheery despite wiping out the day before during the super combined event, denying her a chance for a second straight medal.
And like millions of Americans, Vonn can't help poking fun at Woods' staged event. When a member of her Vonn-tourage tells her that Woods gave a few friends hugs after ending his statement, she cracks, "They're like, 'Yeah, you're awesome, you go have that sex.' " The room breaks into a laugh. Then she describes a skit she would want to perform if asked to host Saturday Night Live: picture Vonn at Woods' podium, blue backdrop and all. "There's something you don't know about me," Vonn says in a faux solemn, apologetic voice. "Tiger, you're like my idol, and I too have a sex problem." More laughter. "That would be freaking funny."
On the day that the most famous male athlete in the U.S. has broken his silence, America's most famous female athlete comes across as ingratiatingly anti-Woods. Sure, Vonn has her fair share of handlers and sponsors. But on this morning in Whistler, on a rare day off between the super combined and the super-G which kicks off Saturday and is another speed event in which Vonn is the favorite she is just being herself: unguarded, opinionated, fun. Although the Olympics have put her on a pedestal, Vonn still likes being one of the guys.
When asked how she will deal with sports celebrity in the post-Woods world, in which the tabloids, websites and televisions cameras can threaten even a pristine reputation, Vonn seems nonplussed. "Well, I'm married" to her ski coach, Thomas Vonn, since 2007 "so I don't have that problem," she says. "But, um, I guess [Woods] is married too." Then she turns serious. "I mean, I guess if you have secrets, you have an issue. I've kind of been open about everything."
But is she prepared for the post-Olympics fame crush? Though Olympic athletes tend to fade from consciousness after the closing ceremonies, Vonn's photogenic face, trumped so incessantly by NBC during a relatively high-rated Winter Games, isn't going anywhere soon. "I don't know, I think I blend in pretty well," she says about the potential of being hassled by strangers on the street. "If I put on a baseball cap, no one would really recognize me."
Not that she's going to hide. Vonn knows she's a hot ticket, and is ready to cash in. "I'm excited about it," Vonn says of her commercial prospects. Red Bull, Under Armour and Vail Resorts are among her current backers. "I just hope, with this success, I can build more great relationships, and yeah, we'll see how it goes. I'm anticipating a lot of fun things to come."
Will Saturday Night Live be one of them? "I'm hoping for it," she says. "I've got to call [NBC Sports chairman] Dick Ebersol to see if SNL will have me. I have some ideas." An appearance by Vonn may not get Woods' ratings, but it would be worth tuning in.