On little girls, heroes and Lindsey Vonn

Kristina Wolff is 11 years old. She is a sixth-grader who lives in Stratham, New Hampshire. She worships Lindsey Vonn, the American skiing champion. Kristina is a true fan. She has pictures of Lindsey on the refrigerator. The whole family -- Kristina and her brother, Kyle, who's 9, and her parents, Kim and Dave -- went out to Vail, Colo., last fall and saw some of the best American skiers train, including Lindsey, of course. Lindsey, who's routinely gracious about this sort of thing, stopped for a photo with the kids, and that only made Lindsey that much more of a hero.

A few nights ago, Kristina was lounging around the living room, and the phone rang. You'll never guess who it was. Well, maybe you might. Sometimes little girls' dreams really do come true.

"This is Lindsey Vonn calling," Lindsey Vonn said.

"Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh!" Kristina said, though it's kind of hard to figure out precisely how many times she said, "Oh my gosh," since she jumped up like she'd been jolted by electricity and ran from one room into another, her dad filming the entire thing on the video camera.

The rest of the conversation -- you can watch it here -- serves as a powerful reminder of just why Charles Barkley had it so wrong and Lindsey Vonn has it so right.

The world is desperate for heroes. America's Olympic athletes are absolutely role models. Little girls and little boys want to be like them.

It's all rather elegantly simple, and at 11 Kristina Wolff has it all figured out.

Lindsey Vonn is her hero. And why not?

Kristina is an aspiring ski racer. Lindsey is the best female alpine ski racer in American history, with 12 World Cup titles, including three overall crowns, and of course two Olympic medals, including gold in the downhill. Moreover, Lindsey has a history of coming back from amazing falls and spills, so she's powerfully tough. And, besides, Lindsey is blonde and pretty and when she's not skiing she gets to be in movies and on TV shows like "Law and Order."

So why did Lindsey call Kristina, out of all the people in the world? Because Kim Wolff, Kristina's mom, had been searching for a poster for Kristina, and word had gotten around to the people at Red Bull, one of Lindsey's corporate sponsors, about Super-Fan Kristina.

"For such a young little soul, it's just fantastic," Kim said of her daughter's connection with Lindsey.

Kim and Dave, who themselves are active skiers on the master's-racing circuit, actually knew all that day that Lindsey was going to be calling that night -- that's how Dave knew to have the camera ready -- but they didn't say a word.

Kristina, Kim said, has watched literally dozens if not hundreds of interviews with Lindsey on television or on Universal Sports. That's how Kristina knew immediately it really was Lindsey's voice on the other end of the line.

"I was so excited to talk to her," Kristina said in a telephone call.

"When I had gone to Vail, I talked to her for only a little bit. This time she called me and not somebody else. She called me! She chose to talk to me! She chose me to talk to! It was so cool. Out of all her millions of fans -- I was so excited."

When Kristina caught her breath again, the question was put to her -- if you had Lindsey all by yourself, what would you say?

She took a deep breath. She said, "I would probably tell her how much she inspires me and how much I want to be a great athlete like her and how she always -- she doesn't even know she helps me get through stuff, when I remember her and how she doesn't give up.

"Just thinking of her helps me through it and she inspires me to be better every day. to train like her.

"I'd probably hug her, too."

P.S.: After they talked on the phone, Lindsey sent Kristina a signed poster. It reads, "To Kristina, It was great to talk to you on the phone! Good luck with everything! Love, Lindsey Vonn"