Commentary: Women Olympians Use Body Language

By Ellen Foley Special To Channel 3000

With the agony and the ecstasy of the Winter Olympics behind us, I can’t shake the two most compelling images of the games.

First, the Canadian women’s hockey team in full uniform, lying on the ice chomping stogies, swigging from champagne bottles and beer cans and kicking their feet in the air like babies while celebrating the gold. (Check out photos on Huffington Post)

Second, Lindsey Vonn, the heroic American skier who won the gold with a bad leg but a strong spirit, preening for the Sports Illustrated 2010 Swimsuit Edition in a Russian-like white fur hat and not much else under the headline, “Downhill Darling.”

These young women give new definition to the term “champion.”

Twenty years ago, I would have been outraged, tossed the Sports Illustrated into the garbage and paced the house feeling betrayed that women with much more athletic talent than me had disgraced our kind and diminished our hard won achievements.

What an old frump I was. Now, all I can say is, “You go, girls!”

Successful women who grew up in the 1950s and 1960s knew that we benefitted from a random distribution of genetic good fortune. We worked hard. But we knew we had been given gifts: We were perhaps a bit smarter than our peers, had straighter teeth, a statuesque figure, unrelenting stamina, physical strength and/or a predisposition to be natural blondes.

Why shouldn’t the 2010 graduating class of the Winter Olympics use their Title IX-enhanced training to give their sport some air time? Genetic gifts in athletic ability sent them to residential hockey camps and skiing or skating facilities in their teens, if not before. Unlike a law degree, an M.D. or journalistic tenure, the physical gifts don’t improve with the patina of age and wisdom. Seize the day, sister! At 30, your career may be over.

They are not going to go out with a whimper. They are not happy that they cannot leverage their sporting talent with endorsements and car ads, like Tiger Woods. They want attention for their beloved sport and they got it in a distinctly female way.

The Canadian clan clearly had a plan to play against type with not-so-lady-like shenanigans more befitting frat boys on spring break. As my husband sarcastically said, “There is nothing more attractive than a man smoking a cigar unless it is a woman smoking a cigar.”

Those young women were trying to tell us something: They were going to move out of the Olympic spotlight only after a memorable moment.

Vonn and other Olympic hopefuls donning handkerchief-sized bikinis in Sports Illustrated’s annual soft porn ode to sports enthusiasts certainly caught my attention. The models/athletes lounged in multiple shoots on snowy terrain for this edition’s huge audience that is second only to the Super Bowl’s, according to Jon Friedman in

Did I mention you can get these photos on your cell phone?

Vonn knows to follow the money. Those of us whose swimming suits have skirts that hide doughy thighs may ponder what women in bikinis have to do with sports. Here’s a clue: The Swimsuit Edition earned more than $1 billion in revenue since 1964, reports. It will be some time before Sports Illustrated’s women-only edition features skill over skin.

Vonn follows in the footsteps of wily business entrepreneurs, such as Heidi Klum, former Swimsuit Edition lovely turned entertainment personality. She subsequently married a rock star and took charge of a popular cable show, “Project Runway.” Young designers compete in timed, high-pressured contests on the show. Klum, a native of Germany who looks smashing after four pregnancies, warns the designers that they are in a tough business in which during any week they can be “eeen” (in) or they could be “auwtt” (out). Sounds a bit like the Olympics, doesn’t it?

The Canadian hockey Olympians and Vonn are just a little more upfront about what all of us, men and women, learn early in life. You’ve got to use what you?ve got. And when you’ve got a great physique and a sharp mind, you may just have to use irreverent channels to become lasting champions of your sport.