The Reuters global sports blog
from Olympics Notebook: Vancouver 2010:
All the pre-Olympic attention in women’s Alpine Skiing has been on American Lindsey Vonn, her form, her posing on the cover of Sports Illustrated, her shin injury, her cheesetherapy, her husband/coach/spokesman Thomas and her ever so hip social networking ability (yes, she tweets her facebook updates). It’s almost as though seven-times world champion Anja Paerson wasn’t here…..
Which suits the 28-year-old Swede just fine. The true Queen of the Slopes, the most successful active women’s skier on the circuit, Paerson doesn’t mind the lack of attention.
Despite her elevated status in the sport, only two non-Swedish journalists bothered to turn up to her pre-Olympics press conference. That was even more surprising given that, as well as being a multiple medal contender, Paerson, who has been on the World Cup tour for 12 years, also happens to be one of the smartest, most articulate athlete on the circuit and is frequently outspoken on issues of concern to her and her fellow skiers.
I was fortunate enough to witness a lot of Paerson’s successes in the mid noughties –- some key wins in her two overall World Cup titles in 2004 and 2005, the two golds in the world championships at Bormio in 2005 and her Olympic gold in slalom a year later at the Turin Games. In among those many highlights (she is the only woman to have won gold in every world championship event) there have been times when she has looked and sounded bored or frustrated with skiing. There has been the feeling that she needed to be angry to perform well.
Eight years ago, Mexico lost 3-1 away to Honduras in a World Cup qualifier, sunk by a Carlos Pavon hat-trick, and the defeat cost Enrique Meza his job.
Already under enormous pressure, Meza quit in the dressing room afterwards and has gone on to become a highly successful coach with Pachuca, a friendly club founded by Cornish miners whose modern-day facilities would put many of their European counterparts to shame.
Not many have welcomed Sweden’s decision to host their first round tie against Israel behind closed doors but it is the sort of situation Andy Ram and his fellow Israelis are fast becoming used to.
Until two weeks ago, Ram, a doubles specialist, could easily slip in and out of a tournament unnoticed but has suddenly had to get used to having an army of bodyguards surrounding him whenever he steps on to a tennis court.