PEYONGCHANG, South Korea >> The backlash started minutes after Lindsey Vonn skidded to a stop past the finish line at the Jeongseon Alpine Center on Saturday and mouthed “I tried.”
The most successful women’s Alpine skier in history tied for sixth in the super-G at the Pyeongchang Olympics after a mistake during a turn late in her run.
Posts assailing Vonn and celebrating the unexpected result quickly flooded Twitter, most of them tied to comments she made about President Trump last year.
“Losers gonna lose.”
“Did God just give her a little nudge off course?”
“Hope you break a leg or two.”
“Happy to see a traitor of the USA defeated.”
Many of the tweets were profane, threatening or both. They cited karma; hoped she suffered an injury; wished she would lose again; used the #MAGA hashtag, short for Trump’s pledge to “Make America Great Again.”
What prompted such a vicious, gleeful response? During an interview with CNN in St. Moritz, Switzerland, in December, Vonn was asked how she would feel competing in the Olympics for a country led by Trump.
“I hope to represent the people of the United States, not the president,” Vonn answered. “I take the Olympics very seriously and what they mean and what they represent, what walking under our flag means in the Opening Ceremony. You know, I want to represent our country well, and I don’t think there are a lot of people currently in our government who do that.”
Would she accept an invitation to the White House if she won a gold medal?
“Absolutely not,” Vonn told CNN.
As the vitriol increased on Twitter in the hours after the race, some came to Vonn’s defense. They included Julie Foudy, the former soccer standout now covering the Winter Games for ESPN.
“I just spent last 20 min’s reading thru tweets directed” at Vonn, Foudy tweeted. “Sickened & disgusted once again by the lack of humanity that engulfs our country. She just raced her damn heart out & Trump supporters gloat/cheer/celebrate her inability to medal. Is this what we’ve become?”
Vonn seemed to take the social media storm in stride. After all, she waited eight years and fought through a series of injuries to return to the Olympics. Her 81 wins on the World Cup circuit are the most by any woman; she’s poised to break the all-time record of 86 for either gender. And her best event, the downhill, awaits Wednesday.
“It’s ok Julie,” Vonn tweeted in response. “Not everyone has to like me but my family loves me and I sleep well at night. I work hard and try to be the best person I can be. If they don’t like me their loss I guess … Thank you for the support.”
A few minutes later, she added: “Tomorrow is another day and another opportunity to become better. Goodnight.”
But the ugliness continued in the first response to her innocuous message.
“Time to hang it up.”