Nordic NationPodcastsNordic Nation: A Discussion on the Media’s Portrayal of Endurance Athletes with Rosie Brennan, Corrine Malcolm, Brian Metzler, and Nat Herz

Rachel PerkinsMarch 31, 2022

Though the FasterSkier team would select other highlights from the 2022 Beijing Olympic Games, one of the most read articles we produced featured the responses of members of the ski community to a story published on February 8th by the New York Times, which included the following quote:

“In a sport that has so many women with massive shoulders and thighs, Diggins looks like a sprite in her racing suit, and it’s not clear exactly where she gets her power. But the power is there, as she flies up hills, and comes off climactic turns with a burst. On the downhills, she tucks low and cuts through the air.”

The women’s Olympic 1.5-kilometer freestyle podium: Sweden’s Jonna Sundling took gold ahead of teammate Maja Dahlqvist and American Jessie Diggins. (Photo: NordicFocus)

Following the initial backlash sparked by the quote has prompted a number of insightful conversations – and questions – on how athletes, men and women, are portrayed by the media, whether there is room for descriptions or comparisons of athletes’ bodies to narrate a scene for a reader, and how the landscape of sports media has shifted with time.

For this discussion, FasterSkier brought together a panel that spans both the athlete and media perspective on the issue.

Perhaps needing the least introduction for this audience, the first voice you’ll hear belongs to Rosie Brennan. In addition to her role as one of the top American cross country skiers for more than a decade, Brennan is also an advocate for the organization Voice in Sport which provides mentorship for developing female athletes across all sports. And she was a member of the women’s Olympic skate sprint final in Zhangjiakou, taking fourth place just behind Diggins, the race which sparked the discussion in the first place.

Putting together another highlight weekend in Davos, Rosie Brennan skis to 4th in the 10k individual start skate. (Photo: NordicFocus)

The second belongs to professional trail and ultra runner Corrine Malcolm, whose first go at professional endurance sport was in biathlon, from which she retired in 2014 after experiencing overtraining syndrome, likely coupled by relative energy deficiency in sport (RED-S). Alongside her athletic career, Malcolm has become a coach for other endurance athletes, while also becoming an advocate for women in sport, and has also engaged with this topic from the media side of the coin while calling some of the top ultra running events worldwide, including the Western States Endurance Run in California and the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) which begins and ends in Chamonix, France. She’s also the co-host of an engaging podcast called Trail Society, which dissects challenging topics in the trail and ultra-running space.

Biathlete turned professional trail and ultra runner Corrine Malcolm discusses body comments in the media on the Nordic Nation podcast. (Courtesy photo)

We’ve also got Brian Metzler, an award-winning veteran journalist and author in the endurance space who currently writes for a number of publications including Outside, Competitor, Women’s Running, Triathlete, and Trail Runner magazines. Writing with perspective from his own athletic career, Metzler is Colorado Running Hall of Fame inductee (2015) who adventures on foot, ski, and sometimes alongside a burro, throughout the high country of Colorado. 

Long-time sports journalist and author Brian Metzler joins FasterSkier’s panel to discuss body comments in the media. (Photo: brianmetzler.com)

Lastly, you’ll hear a cameo from our own Nat Herz, on lunch break from his “real job” as a full-time reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. Having written for FasterSkier from 2009 through 2015 before making a return this year as our 2022 Olympic Correspondent and co-host of the Devon Kershaw Show, Herz shares insights from his time covering cross country skiing paired with those from behind a very different desk.

Some of the talking points discussed include: 

  • Initial responses to the NY Times story
  • A writer’s responsibility to be informed on the sport being covered, in addition to the physical and/or mental health challenges that may be pervasive in that setting
  • Differences between American and European media, and shifts in focus, norms, or trends in sports media
  • Differences, or lack thereof, of covering athletes of different genders

Thanks for listening, and to this episode’s sponsor, the Craftsbury Outdoor Center

Please note that the Craftsbury Green Racing Project Ski and Biathlon teams and U23 summer programs are currently accepting applications for the upcoming training year, which will close on April 10th. Click here for more information.

Jessie Diggins (USA) and Rosie Brennan find their position in the early moments of the women’s freestyle sprint final. (Photo: NordicFocus)

Rachel Perkins

Rachel is an endurance sport enthusiast based in the Roaring Fork Valley of Colorado. You can find her cruising around on skinny skis, running in the mountains with her pup, or chasing her toddler (born Oct. 2018). Instagram: @bachrunner4646

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