NEWS BLOG (WSAU) Do you know who Carly Patterson is? Or Diann Roffe? Or Alyssa Anderson? Even if you know the names, would you be able to recognize their faces?
(If you’re playing along at home, they are all American women who’ve won Olympic gold medals. Patterson in gymnastics, Roffe in skiing, Anderson for swimming.) You might know them if you’re an enthusiast of their individual sports. The big money endorsements have passed them by. They’ve reached what’s likely the pinnacle of their lives at a very early age – late teens or early twenties. They’re too old to compete in their chosen sports at a world-class level now. They’ll be celebrities among their peers; anonymous to the rest of us.
So what happens when the crowning achievement of your life comes too soon, and you still have 50, 60, or 70 years left to live? We like to think of our lives as building up to something. Young Olympians may be looking at a very long downhill slope with nothing that matches the lofty heights they’d reached when they were kids. For some, that would be depressing.
How someone deals with that kind of depression is an entirely different issue. Obviously it led to very self-destructive behavior for Suzy Favor Hamilton. She isn’t making excuses for her behavior; I won’t either. And there are certainly mental-health issues here that go beyond what-to-do-when-the-cheering-stops. But I can understand the emptiness of looking forward to years of your life and seeing… nothing.
This is a salacious story. The Smoking Gun’s reporting her activities nails it – right down to screen shots of escort service web sites, price lists and services offered, and “client” reviews of her skills. If she were a bigger celebrity, it would be hard to imaging someone ever recovering their public image from this. But our memories of Olympians are short. Suzy Favor Hamilton is a local hero. She’s tarnished, but she wasn't a household name to everyone. She'll have an opportunity to put this behind her. She also has a lot of life in front of her, which, hopefully will be marked with better choices. I hope that she gets the help she needs. I hope the rest of us show more understanding and less judgment.