Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Oh, Laure Manadou

Every four years, as an integral component of Olympic coverage, the networks film stories spotlighting certain athletes. Some indeed do have a story to tell. But for the average teenage Olympian, their story is just not compelling. Shawn Johnson is an example: The only thing mildly interesting about her ascent to the Olympics was that her hometown was flooded recently. In reality, she's just an incredibly lucky girl who is talented, strong, and worked hard at her sport, but happened to be in the right place and the right time. How her coach knew, back in 2000, that she would be ready eight years later to compete at the highest level--at the prime age of 16--is beyond me.

But the story that's grabbed me, partly because it's so sad, is Laure Manadou's. Even though she had barely squeaked by to be in lane 8 (last place) in the 400 meter freestyle, I was rooting for her. She made a lot of stupid decisions I'm sure she regrets--but to lose your lead and your boyfriend to your rival is just crushing, and to have nude pictures of you surface the day after the very public breakup is just throwing fire on an already burned victim.

Most of the athletes profiled are Americans, just like the Olympics in large part were organized so that the top sports would be viewed live for both the Eastern and Central time zones of the country. Laure Manadou was front-page news for both the Italian and French media, since she practically defected her hometown to join her Italian swimmer. But obviously most people outside Europe had no idea who she was, and she must have given her permission for NBC to profile her, considering the incredibly emotional and raw year she's just had. Why? Did she feel she had to, that she might as well, since a Google search only brings up her nude pictures? Maybe they figured the outpouring of sympathy would be worth it, or it could bring some lucrative deals. But it didn't work; being reminded constantly of everything that's ruined your life has a way of holding you back.

It's no wonder that she's seriously considering quitting the sport entirely.


petpluto said...

I completely agree. Laure Manadou was someone I rooted heartily for; I wanted her to win so badly, and it sucked that she came in last in her race. Especially because the French guy they profiled to talk about how she would be seen in France basically said that unless she won, she would be a laughingstock.

I understand her agreeing to be profiled. At worst, nothing more could be said about her than has already been said. At best, some of her story gets out there, and I found the piece incredibly sympathetic. And it did get me to care about a swimmer I would have been almost completely unaware of otherwise, so it did its job there.

John said...

Ahh, this takes me back to the days of Nancy Kerrigan. We do love our Olympic movie-of-the-week drama, don't we? It would seem that she wants to be profiled so that she can tell the story from her perspective, rather than wait for the inevitable TV movie to brainwash everyone.

I find it sad that people harp on her most recent failures as if they negate her accomplishments. Anyone who begins training at age 6, has won gold, silver and bronze medals and has broken world records is a success and a hero in my book.