Go Milli Vanilla or Mangle the Anthem?


The controversy might have started with Milli Vanilli, but they certainly aren't the only ones.

I'm pretty sure Britney Spears has done it, too.


I'm talking about lip syncing. Not the kind that you did at slumber parties in junior high. I'm talking about real honest-to-goodness, in-front-of-an-audience lip syncing.

Turns out Olympic medalists standing on the podium share this skill, as well.

Inspired by an article in the Wall Street Journal today, I decided to research this interesting topic a little further. Imagine: millions and millions of eyes on you as you stand on that top step, a pound or two heavier with the weight of a gold medal hanging from your neck, and your national anthem is playing. Do you sing along, or do you lip sync? (Or do you not know the words to The Star Spangled Banner, and are thus forced to stare contemplatively into space?)

Full of curiosity about how one might handle such a situation, not to mention whether it's something that even enters the Olympian's consciousness, I telephoned an expert. I asked my friend Kristin Armstrong what she did when she won the gold medal in the time-trial discipline of cycling at the Olympics in Beijing in 2008.

"That's a tough one," Kristin giggled.

Despite appearances, it's rare that an athlete is confident enough to plan a gold medal moment ahead of time. Simply standing atop the podium is startling enough, and by the time that act has been fully embraced, the anthem is at least 30 percent over.

"You've got to do it all-or-nothing from the start," said Kristin, "because it can't be 50-50. Once you start singing or lip syncing, you're committed."

According to Kristin, it's quiet enough on the blocks that your neighboring silver and bronze medalist will surely be able to hear you sing, and unlike karaoke, there's no teleprompter to help you with the words if you're overcome with emotion. And if your voice cracks or you can't carry a tune, well, at least the Wheaties Box only has your picture


What would you do?