- Alyssa Roenigk, ESPN The Magazine senior writer
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WHISTLER, British Columbia -- The cheese is out of the bag.
In a news conference Thursday afternoon, American alpine skier Lindsey Vonn let it slip that she was treating the inflammation in her injured right shin by slathering it with topfen cheese, an old Austrian home remedy said to reduce swelling and speed healing. Dammit if the media didn't go and tell the rest of the world.
Within a few hours, the e-mail inboxes of anyone associated with Vonn -- "If you're one of Vonn's people, please forward!" -- began filling up faster than Shaun White's social calendar. If Vonn was willing to eschew fancy topical creams in favor of a cracker topper, her fans figured: Heck, this gal's up for anything!
"I immediately started getting phone calls and e-mails," said Doug Haney, the U.S. ski team's alpine press officer. "Some of them were pretty funny. One guy who builds prosthetics called suggesting he could create something the shape of her shin to use as a pad between her shin and boot."
Too bad she already has one. It's called a boot lining.
"He offered to fly to Vancouver that night, on his own dime, to take molds of her leg," Haney said. We bet he did -- right after he finished browsing the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.
In the three days since learning of her injury, fans have sent hundreds of suggestions to Vonn via e-mail, Twitter, Facebook and message boards.
Several have gone so far as to contact her reps at Red Bull, Under Armour and the U.S. ski team, hoping their get-well-quick scheme will be passed along to Vonn and her trainers. The treatments range from over-the-counter: "Rub Arnica on it!" "Try Traumeel, it's homeopathic!" "Take Vitamin E and call me when you get the gold!" to over-the-top: "Get her in a hyperbaric chamber, fast!" "Uggs!" "Grind up an onion and put it on the shin overnight." "You need a CHI-Blanket!"
We can only imagine what will happen the next time Vonn catches a cold.
"There are so many treatments, and I'm sure her doctors are using all the right therapies," says Lisa Haas, MPT, an orthopedic sports medicine specialist who has treated members of the U.S. alpine team. "But in the end, the best thing for Lindsey is that her races have been postponed."
Tell that to Mike from Washington, D.C. "Lindsey, use Bag Balm. No kidding. It works! My 68-year-old grandmother used it and was able to hobble around for four days on a broken leg!"
Come again, Mike?
"It's her personality; people connect with Lindsey," Haney said. "People love her story and they want to see her succeed."
Vonn was supposed to be their Five-Medal Girl. She was supposed to Phelps these Olympics. So now, everyone from Aspen to Zanesville wants the chance to say they had a hand in saving that story. "See? I did it! She won gold, and it's all because of me!" (And the CHI-Blanket.)
But whether it's based on science or sci-fi, the free advice is all well-intentioned. Vonn's fans have only her best interests at heart. Except for the few who have their own best interests at heart.
"Check out my Web site! It's a miracle cure. Tell your teammates!"
"Wild salmon oil! It's all you need! Order here."
"Attached, you'll find a brochure that explains the Q1000 low-level laser cold-therapy device. I'm happy to get her one. We'll worry about payment after the Olympics."
At this point, only Vonn and Her People know exactly what it is she's been doing to treat the most famous shin in America. But whatever it is, it's working. Sunday afternoon, Vonn tested her leg in a private slalom session at Whistler Mountain and said her leg felt pretty good.
"By the end, she could go full-on," said Thomas Vonn, her husband and coach, before softening his report. "It's not like it's all gone. The injury hasn't disappeared," he said. On Monday, Vonn's post-practice report was a bit less rosy. Visibly in pain, she said navigating the bumpy Whistler downhill course was more painful than she expected.
Still, she's skiing. And with one more day before her debut race Wednesday morning -- exactly two weeks after injuring her leg -- Vonn's medal hopes are looking bright once again.
It seems the best help came not from a mothering fan, but from Mother Nature.
Alyssa Roenigk is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.
12hBonnie D. Ford