Before heading to the Olympics in South Korea, Lindsey Vonn, a gold medalist, was asked what it means to her to compete for the United States. “Well, I hope to represent the people of the United States, not the president,” she told CNN in December. “I want to represent our country well. I don’t think that there are a lot of people currently in our government that do that.” The skier, who’s competing in her fourth Olympics, met with backlash for her comments, with commenters on social media going so far as to say they hope she breaks her neck.
And on Saturday, after missing the podium in the super giant slalom, the 33-year-old was once again subjected to harsh criticism for expressing her beliefs. After she tweeted frustration about her performance, trolls, including many who are supporters of Trump, sent the 33-year-old hate-filled messages. In response, Vonn said that “not everyone has to like me, but my family loves me and I sleep well at night.” She added, “I work hard and try to be the best person I can be. If they don’t like me, their loss I guess.”
Vonn’s politicizing the Games has her fellow Olympians thinking about who they’re representing in PyeongChang. While luger Erin Hamlin, who considers Vonn her role model, doesn’t think it matters because “four years ago, no one was representing a president,” ice hockey player Monique Lamoureux believes that politics should be set aside during the Olympics. “I’m honored I get to represent the United States of America and what that stands for,” she said. “It’s a huge honor.”
Read on to find out who these 10 Olympians are representing — and how some of them feel about Vonn’s comments.
Jessica Smith Kooreman
I feel like I’m representing my country and, obviously, my family, friends, team, support system. All of the staff that is behind me. I don’t think it’s about politics at that point. I just want to wear the stars and stripes and represent my country to the best of my ability and to make the people of the United States proud. It’s about knowing that all the people of the United States are at home watching and chanting from their TVs.
I think the biggest part about the Olympics is that it is a chance to represent my country, to represent the U.S., and to share that experience with so many other athletes. But I’m also really looking forward to representing my family. I mean obviously I do have a history in the sport. And that’s really cool for me, and I think it’s cool that a lot of older athletes in the sport get to see the next generation come through and live that dream as well.
Lindsay got a lot of hate for that, and I felt for her because she’s my role model. I don’t think it matters — four years ago, no one was representing a president. That’s the wonderful thing about the U.S. I am representing my family, my friends, and myself.
I don’t agree with what [Trump] stands for, but I am an American and I will stand by every person who supports our team, and I am honored to represent them. Especially my hometown and people who have cheered me on forever. It’s a unique situation — our government doesn’t fund our team, so there shouldn’t be political ties to this. We work so hard. The Olympics is privately funded, so to try to get us to participate isn’t an appropriate thing. I represent every person who has gotten me here.
I started traveling from the age of 14 and competing with luge. I have had the USA on my back or my arm. So, the level of patriotism is corny, but from that age when you’re only 14, you’re representing your country. I am excited to represent the USA and all that encompasses. I’m there for my family and friends and my country.
The Olympics is first and foremost about representing your country, which is so cool. I also feel like I am representing my family certainly.
I would like to represent myself and, being a good American, just showing how much I’m dedicated to my sport and representing the U.S. as a nation.
When Lindsey Vonn got attacked for not going to the White House, people tore her apart on Twitter. … It’s her own right to voice her opinion, and she didn’t even say anything negative. It’s a bummer she got attacked. For me, that’s part of being someone with a social media platform. She should be able to say what she wants.
What resonates with me is the opportunity that Americans have to live in a relatively safe country with freedom of speech and what people have sacrificed for Americans to have those rights and privileges. I stand with the military; my brother is in the Air Force. So I appreciate what members of the military have sacrificed. That hits home with me, but I guess I’m not taking a stance as far as politics go. The Olympics isn’t a place for that. You have peace in the world; it’s this moment where sports brings the world together. I think that’s what’s so powerful about sports and the Olympics.
I think when it comes to the Olympic Games and the ideals and what it stands for, it’s two weeks where countries all over the world come together, and in some instances, countries at war are coming together and celebrating sport and showing unity and peace. For me, it represents the country I grew up in and I’m proud to be part of.
You can set politics aside. I’m honored I get to represent the United States of America and what that stands for. It’s a huge honor. It’s not just a time for athletes from all over the world to come together, but even athletes within their own country to come together.
Additional reporting by Laureen Irat, Kerry Justich, Dana Oliver, Rachel Bender, Alexandra Mondalek, Beth Greenfield, Elise Solé, and Abby Haglage.
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