The Beauty of a Woman: Giving Props to my 3 Favorite Female American Olympians (and Ashley Wagner)


photo credit: Kalexanderson via photopin cc
photo credit: Kalexanderson via photopin cc

I love the Olympics.

In Summer Games years, I love the Summer Games. Right now? It’s the Winter Games. It’s like all my elementary school years. In winter, it was all about football for me. During the summer? It was dinosaurs and Star Wars. All.The.Time.

I get pretty caught up in it.

I love the stories, especially.

You know I sometimes get a little, um, extreme about my patriotism. Sometimes, we Americans come off as ugly. Petulant. Like the way Ashley Wagner, the American skater, reacted after a routine she felt great about failed to wow the judges:

If you can read her lips, you know how she felt about it. But to me, it’s just competitive. And I love Ashley Wagner for it.

It’s OK to want to win.

“I love to win,” Ashley told NBC News, “ … if you love to win, you should say it. And honestly, I’m hooked on it.”

This Winter Games, I want to spread a little love, too.

Some divas have captured my heart, but maybe not the medal they sought.

I love their stories. I love their hearts. Each of these three athletes did something in their Olympic moment, or leading up to it, or immediately after it, that prompted me to create a new Winter Olympics event:

Welcome to the Alpine Freestyle Coach Daddy-athalon.

Bronze Medalist

Hannah Teter

Snowboarding

Her place in my event: She won gold in Torino (2006) and silver in Vancouver (2010). After winning that gold in ’06, she started Hannah’s Gold maple syrup, whose proceeds go to help an impoverished village in Kenya. She also has an underwear line, Sweet Cheeks, that benefits Children International, a non-profit charity focused on feeding children.

Her moment: Unhappy with her score and watching her hold on the bronze medal slip away late in the snowboarding halfpipe, Teter smiled, hugged teammate Kaitlyn Farrington, the surprise gold-medal winner, and gracefully exited in her first Olympics that didn’t end on the podium.

Silver Medalist

Julia Mancuso

Downhill skiing

Julia MancusoHer place in my event: No other woman has as many Olympic medals (4) as Mancuso, who needs one more to tie Bode Miller for most for an American in the Winter Games. Super Jules is really close with her father, who lives near her in Hawaii. She wore a plastic tiara on the podium in the 2010 Games.

Her moment: So versatile. So clutch. After a season of struggles on the slopes, Mancuso put together a remarkable run late in the super combined final to capture bronze. With the pressure at its peak and course in its worst condition, Mancuso managed to put together a gritty, medal-worthy performance.

Gold medalist

Noelle Pikus-Pace

Skeleton

photo credit: James--Cook via photopin cc
photo credit: James–Cook via photopin cc

Her place in my event: A leg shattered in a bobsled accident. A heartbreaking fourth-place finish in the Vancouver Games, just off the podium. Then, a miscarriage. Pikus-Pace fought back from all these setbacks, a strong, beautiful mom who battled back problems and concussion-like symptoms in Sochi for one last chance.

Her moment: After her final run in the skeleton – a face-first, luge-like spin down the ice at 80 mph-plus – Pikus-Pace leapt into the crowd to celebrate her run. She held the gold-medal spot for one slider, and after Brit Lizzy Yarnold beat her time, Pikus-Pace still said “good as gold!”

Which Olympians have captured your heart?

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80 thoughts on “The Beauty of a Woman: Giving Props to my 3 Favorite Female American Olympians (and Ashley Wagner)

  1. I saw that moment with Ashely Wagner and was thinking so similar as you that we Americans just have a way of showing our true feelings sometimes all over our face (at least I know I do). So, I truly think great minds do think a like!! 🙂

    1. Yes! Ashley Wagner to me epitomizes the American sporting spirit – we think we’re badass, we compete like we’re badass, and when a gaggle of clueless judges see it otherwise, well, it *is* bullsh*t.

      Great minds most definitely think alike, Janine. U-S-A!

  2. Right there with you on all 3 (actually 4) of those amazing athletes!!! I was really rooting for Pikus-Pace – when she hopped into the stands I was cheering her on!!! I think that we have some incredible athletes representing our country!!!

    1. thanks Kim – they are pretty amazing women. Just to compete was reward enough for Pikus-Pace, and, not unlike Ashley Wagner’s story, it was one of comeback and beating the odds.

      Sure makes me proud to be American.

  3. I loved cheering for Pikus-Place. I’m not a huge Ashley Wagner fan, I can’t put my finger on why.

    My favorite Olympic moment of all time came in 2012 when McKayla Maroney got silver in the gymnastics vault final and couldn’t hide her face. I loved that it went viral (and that the reason for the face was that she was so disappointed in her performance and not because of her place). Apparently, Google says Ashley Wagner’s face is the new “not impressed” that Maroney made so famous.

    1. She’s a champion, and I knew I loved her when they first started those commercials. Ashley Wagner has taken some heat, but I will always have her back.

      McKayla’s expression was a familiar one from my own kids. I love the defiance. It’s emotion at that point.

  4. I love the Olympic stories. I really felt for Lindsey Jacobellis last night. And Shaun White…I was impressed at his reaction when he was left off the podium…what a sportsman! I was never a big fan before, but I am now.

    1. Olympics stories are what make the Olympics so great. Lindsey would have made the next podium in this event – I loved her even before last night.

      Shaun White is all class. and the guy who took gold? Did you see him hugging Shaun afterward? He was hugging his hero. Imagine being Shaun White, and essentially helping to build the man who took your place atop your sport?

      Shaun White’s a patriot. And a good dude.

  5. Do you know who captured my heart? The Canadian coach who ran out and gave skis to a Russian athlete (even helped him put them on) so he could finish the race. Or the Canadian speed skater who gave up his place so his teammate could race. It’s not so much that Canadians did this, but people did this…for other countries…for the spirit of the Olympics. Those are the stories that make overwhelm me. 🙂

    1. I didn’t know about those stories, but that – that’s what makes the Olympics awesome. Long after we forget who won silver and bronze, we’ll have those lasting images.

      Even you Canadians do some pretty cool stuff, Jenn!

    1. Thanks Nicole – it helps take my mind off the Super Bowl! Stories make the Olympics, both on the road there and when things happen. you never know what will happen on such a grand stage.

      I’d love to see some Paralympic Games coverage.

  6. I’m bad. I haven’t really watched the Olympics as closely as I used to. I watched a few men figure skate in the singles short program. The one Japanese guy, the 19 year old wowed me and hubby. I really wanted to see the women, but life just always gets my attention and I forget to watch things on TV. You would think I would just tape things, but I tend to forget to do that too! See? I’m bad. These stories are heartwarming though. It’s nice to be able to read your blog to learn about them. 🙂

    1. Oh, you’re not bad – the best images will be on a Wheaties box near you soon, Brittnei! It conveniently comes on around dinner time, if I can wrest the remote from my Dr. Who-obsessed teenager.

      I forget to DVR too – especially the stuff that happens after the kids go to bed. I’m glad you came here and got caught up. Now you can go watch and know what to look out for.

      Oh, and don’t shake hands with Bob Costas.

  7. i am just loving it all, the drama on the screen as well as behind it all. my local michigan ice dancers took gold and happy about usa hockey so far, you know i love my hockey, and i’ve loved all the action on the slopes, and ……….!!!!!!!

  8. I am such a dork and haven’t watched any of the Olympics. Can we still be friends? I blame the snow. And my kid having no school, because of the snow. And not being able to get anything done with him home, except to play. In the snow.

    1. Don’t worry – the U.S. speedskaters have also been curiously absent from the games. You get a pass for having stopped by for the alpine freestyle Coach Daddy-athalon.

      Ironic, that we were socked in with snow during the Winter Games. Did you get some sick air on your kids’ sleds like I did?

  9. I haven’t watch much, but I watched the clip of Pikus-Pace after her run, jumping into the stands, and I cried. It is mind boggling how much these athletes put into their sport, and how heartbreaking it must be for all but three at each event. I’d like to think that just competing is enough, but these are competitors – they want to win. I may watch ice dancing tonight though; it’s so pretty 🙂

    1. Noelle is all kinds of awesome. For some, it’s about that spot on the podium, but for others, the reward comes in competing, just as it was for Noelle.

      They often train a lifetime for that moment – how would we perform if it all came down to one moment? I think I’m missing some freestyle skiing or something like that right this minute.

  10. Star Wars and dinosaurs for me too. I even took a class in dinosaurs. And a legos one too!
    These are beautiful stories. I haven’t watched any of the Olympics, but I suppose my heart belongs to these women now.

    1. You can’t go wrong with dinosaurs and Star Wars, like the seasons. When we studied dinosaurs, it was like Christmas and Easter and a snow day all rolled into one.

      Where can you take Lego classes?

      I wish these women were still competing. Check out the U.S.-Canada women’s hockey championship at noon eastern. (I sound like a commercial).

      I know there will be more heroes then. These two sides are big rivals.

  11. Noelle Pikus-Pace has been my favorite Olympian so far. I’m a big fan of mom athletes, and loved one of her pre-race interviews with her husband and kids in tow. When asked how she relaxes and prepares for her races, she answered that she hangs out with her family because they give her the distraction she needs and keeps her from stressing about her upcoming race.

    1. She is so gold-worthy. I’m just a fan of moms – but one who does this? I love how the whole family invested in the training. They wanted to see her dream through.

      My Olympic dream: To have Noelle guest post.

  12. I had no clue about the maple syrup… kinda random, but cool! As of this second, I’m loving the 2 man Jamaican bobsled guys. They’re currently 29th but they’re happy to be there… and they actually kissed the egg for good luck (just like from Cool Runnings). I love an underdog!

    1. “Kinda random” is kinda my specialty. Especially when it comes to breakfast food. I saw the Jamaican bobsledders clunk their way down the course … I love the spirit.

      Underdogs will always have a spot at my table.

  13. Great re-caps on stellar athletes! We are watching every second (even now in the background as I type) and the stories of these amazing women and many other athletes completely capture me. I especially appreciate when athletes are humble and grateful with their wins AND losses.

    and omg…that hockey game Saturday morning bt/wn Russian and the U.S……EFFING AMAZING. I died.

    Also LOVING the high jumps. So Cool!

    1. Thanks Beth! I hate to miss any coverage, because you never know what’ll happen. So many of those moments have nothing to do with the podium, but I love when the American who won that snowboarding event early brought the other two guys up on the gold podium with him.

      I don’t know how the next U.S.-Russia match can be any better … but I’d settle for a snowman put up by the Americans on the scoreboard, and leave the drama for the curling final.

      There’ll be a void left behind after closing ceremonies, for sure.

  14. I agree Eli, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to win, especially if you’ve trained your butt off to get there. You don’t go to these events and say, “I’ll just turn up see what I can do. The last four years of work, heartbreak, training, pain and missing out on life won’t count at all. I’ll let the other competitors get all the medals. *sad face inserted here.*

  15. The generosity of Canadian Speedskater Gilmore Junio, to step aside so that his teammate Denny Morrison could compete. Which lead to Denny winning his first Olympic Medal (silver), and then continue to capture a Bronze also. Tres Awesome!
    And it’s always the bond between Alexandre Bilodeau and his special needs brother Frederic (celebral palsy) that captures all Canadians hearts. Aside from back to back Gold wins in men’s freestyle moguls, we wait for that moment when he will run over to his brother for the big hug and celebration. He says Frederic is his biggest inspiration and it is just incredible to watch the two of them.
    The Canadian coach coming to the rescue of the Russian cross country skier was pretty amazing too: but what is great about that moment is that it is Canada passing on the act of kindness because in a previous Olympics a Norway coach came to the rescue of a Canadian skier. That is so amazing!! that’s what it’s all about.
    But file under No Way I Cannot Believe That Happened: American bobsledder Johnny Quinn having to break out of his hotel bathroom! LOL I couldn’t believe that story.

    1. You can’t hold an American back – either to get in or get out of a bathroom!

      You Canadians are putting on a good show with all the sportsmanship. I think that ski coach was American by birth. Figures.

      You guys keep it up, we’ll make you the 51st state.

      1. Pretty sure we’d be kicked right back out as soon as you realize Canada includes Quebec. 🙂
        I mean, I love them — but I am also used to them.

    1. She’s all gold, Rosey. And so glad her face made it all the way intact. I don’t want the Olympics to end, because then I have to think about the Super Bowl or maybe baseball.

      Save me a spot – I’ll bring the wings.

  16. I absolutely LOVE Noelle Pikus-Pace. Her story made me cry. Seeing her running around a track while her son played in the center of it, really hit home with me. She’s an amazing athlete and Olympian and still balances her kids with her ridiculous workouts. Just.amazing. When she jumped into the stands to hug and kiss her family I got goosebumps. Love her!! So classy.

    1. Isn’t she awesome? I loved her from those commercials, before I even knew the whole story. She had her family’s support, and because of that, I don’t think she could really have failed.

      I suspect she can’t wait to go back to being a mom first. My dream is for her to guest post here. Wouldn’t that be awesome?

      Her celebration reminded me of why we compete in the first place.

  17. I have caught very little of the Olympics this year but I did catch when they did Noelle Pikus-Pace’s backstory. I had not heard of her but her story, of course, caught my attention. I love her perspective and energy!

    1. If that’s the only thing you see of these Games, what a good part to catch. As a parent, she makes me want to believe we’re all capable of doing something awesome.

      Yes, that perspective and energy – she didn’t need to be on the podium, but she wears it well, doesn’t she?

  18. I haven’t watched much of the winter Olympics this year, but my three girls have DVR’d it and watched quite a bit. I’m glad to see there are some good role models out there for them!

    1. I love that my girls have been so interested to watch the Games, too. I wish Hannah, Julia and Noelle, and so many more like them, knew how much we appreciate the paths they blaze for our girls.

  19. I’ve only seen the ice skating-male category. I’m not even sure what the name of the event is. 🙂 But I’ve seen several surprised faces.. I think what surprised me was when someone was given a high score even when he fell down a couple of times.. but I don’t know how the scoring goes so I didn’t mind. Hehe

    1. I don’t understand the scoring either. I’m no Scott Hamilton. But, I love that Ashley Wagner chose Pink Floyd for her routine last night, and wore black.

      I love that personal touch. I feel she’s severely under-appreciated.

  20. Mathair always taught me that a healthy respect for competition is necessary in life if you want to succeed. Though I’m no athlete, I am from a family of jocks. (Mathair was a cheerleader and majorette in high school; My father played soccer and practiced Tae Kwon Do; my brother plays baseball and is into weightlifting) So, we always had that ‘go and get ’em’ mentality. Settling for second best just seems like… settling, and I’m not one to settle for anything. Of course, there are times when I didn’t make first place; plenty of times when it came to anything athletic, but as long as I tried my best, my family was proud and supportive. Matter of fact, I was harder on myself than they were. They acted like I had won an Olympic Gold Medal. LOL. Great post, Eli. Happy BOAW

    1. I love being part of this celebration of women. Hope I did them justice!

      I agree with Mathiar – to want to strive for your best pays dividends in many aspects in life. How we do this as parents can shape how our kids use it too.

      Because when we do it wrong – when all we care about winning and we don’t care about how we get there – they can mirror that, too.

      And your parents’ support? Golden, wasn’t it?

  21. Another huge Olympics fan here too. Great post! All the wonderful stories that came out were incredible.

    1. Thanks! I suffer a bit from Olympics hangover for a while after closing ceremonies, don’t you, Catherine? So many stories to cram into two weeks – but that they happen only every four years (well, two until the Summer Games) makes the stories that much more compelling.

      1. Well Eli a new series of The Voice and Big Bang Theory eased me back into normality 🙂 I have yet to see the amazing hockey match. Hoping the best bits are on YouTube. World Champs coming soon too.

      2. So glad you have those transition vehicles to get you back to life after the Olympics – I’ve taken to cookies as a defense mechanism. I’ll let you know how that goes.

        Like the Super Bowl, I’ll try my best to forget the hockey matches for America. There’s always South Korea.

      3. Chips for me. Diet always starts tomorrow sigh. Looking forward to World Champs and the Grand Prix season

  22. I enjoyed this post, Eli, since I don’t catch much TV anymore and I didn’t watch the Olympics, so this post is a treat. Thanks for sharing about these three brave, strong, and beautiful women!

    1. Well, I’m your spot for international competition you didn’t happen to catch on TV. These women absolutely captured my heart, and I was honored to share them in August’s blogfest. Thanks for stopping by.

  23. I confess, I’m not a big fan of the insanity that is the Olympics, but I like the stories. Those are about people trying achieve their dreams. As a writer, of course I love stories.

    That said… while it’s perfectly fine to want to win, and I certainly think Wagner was justified in being bummed about not doing so… there were other performances that were stronger and more creative than hers. Even if what she did was close to flawless…. she didn’t push as many boundaries in artistry. Does that mean she didn’t do amazing? heck no. She made it there, and she wowed the world with a great performance. Just not “the” great performance.

    1. The stories alone are worth watching the Olympics – otherwise, it’s just four German dudes in tights spooning in a sled and such.

      Dreams light the flames, for sure. And without stories, where are we writers, really? (doing manual labor, I hate to admit).

      Probably the most frustrating and intriguing aspect about figure skating is the subjective nature of judging. I feel that had Ashley Wagner captured the judges’ hearts the way she did mine, she’d have some gold around her neck right now.

      I might be a little biased, admittedly, but I could also see so much merit in performances of Kim Yuna, Adelina Sotnikova and Carolina Kostner, so diverse and beautiful in their own ways.

      Wow, move over Scott Hamilton. Coach Daddy’s in the (ice) house.

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