I had a depressing conversation earlier this week with the mother of a member of the US Ski Team. I was riding the Brewster Bus from Chateau Lake Louise to Calgary Airport, and the 50-something lady in the seat in front of me struck up a conversation. Turns out her daughter is an up-and-coming World Cup racer.
I explained my “part in the school play” of World Cup, and she was fascinated. She mostly understood what I was talking about, which is unusual, but she’d seen the end-product of what I do for a living, so it was pretty clear to her. She told me her daughter (who did quite well in the Lake Louise races) broke her leg last year, and the US Ski Team wouldn’t pay her medical expenses. She had the leg reduced at the world renowned Steadman-Hawkins Clinic in Vail, and the operation & rehab cost $200,000. This woman was not wealthy, by any means. I mean, hell, she was riding on a bus. With me. Mr Successful Entrepreneur. I told her I was only riding the bus because my Gulfstream G550 was in the shop. She laughed. She’s of modest means, and LL was the first World Cup she’d ever seen in person.
She said she fortunately maintains a health insurance policy on her daughter, and the insurance picked up most of the costs of the daughter’s operation and rehab. The money hurt, the insurance premiums continue to hurt, but seeing her daughter finally back slugging it out in World Cup dulled the pain somewhat. I was stoked for her, she got to watch her daughter race World Cup in the flesh, and her daughter did pretty well. Fortunately the daughter didn’t wind up in the nets. Ski racing can be brutal, even more so because the rewards are so meager. I mean, even stars like Bode Miller and Benni Raich only earn in a great season what Roger Federer or Phil Mickelson or Kobe Bryant earn in a decent week. And Mickelson won”t be walking with a limp when he’s 50. At least not from playing golf.
This year was the first Lake Louise mens/womens back-to-back World Cup I can remember where no racers left the course in the medivac chopper. Touch wood.
I have never met RacerMom’s daughter, but I recognized her name of course. The mom is a real sweetheart. Smart, too. I won’t reveal her name here, as this blog has been getting quite popular, and I’m starting to get some fairly substantial blowback from people offended by my enraged frothing rants. As cathartic as my rages here have proved to be, I’m going to stop naming names where possible from this point forward, because there are evidently douchebags lurking in these woods, in addition to friends and colleagues. You know who you are, motherfuckers. Go away.
But anyhow, my conversation with RacerMom made me wonder. I bet none of the other top teams make their athletes pay their own medical expenses. I bet Didier Cuche and Aksel Lund Svindal and Renate Götschl and Eric Guay don’t pay a dime to get the best medical care available in their respective countries. I will research this and report back at a later date.
What RacerMom told me jived with a conversation I had in Maui on a bike ride with a male US Ski Team downhiller last year, who said the US Team refused to get him the therapy he needed to recover from a major injury, so he had to go to his parents to fund the medical care he needed to get back on the World Cup Tour. This downhiller wasn’t exactly rich either, nor are his parents. He’s from a working class family. He’s a really great kid, and he’s back and he’s winning, so all I can say is any success he has couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.
The US Ski Team. Sigh. Another thing – in addition to Homeland Security and TSA – to make me ashamed to be an American.