The International Olympic Committee is facing questions whether it caused Team USA athlete Julie Marino to injure herself due to IOC-mandated changes to her Prada-sponsored snowboard.
The 24-year-old Marino has been one of the feel-good stories of an otherwise low-rated Olympic Games, winning the women’s slopestyle silver medal on her stylish red-and-white Prada snowboard.
Marino and Prada have earned raves from the global press for the “Linea Rossa” line, merging high fashion with action sports. “The Silver Wears Prada,” read one Wall Street Journal headline.
Prada, however, is not an official IOC sponsor.
During a practice round for the women’s slopestyle finals, an IOC official confronted Marino, sources told Front Office Sports, demanding she tape over the Prada logo on her helmet. The seven-time X Games medalist complied – and became the first U.S. athlete to medal at the Winter Games.
But the argument didn’t end there, said sources.
The IOC then took aim at Marino’s popular $3,600 Prada snowboard, which sold out within hours of her silver medal.
With a picture of the daredevil Marino flying through the air, GQ named her one of the winners of these “fashion Olympics.”
The IOC maintained Marino’s Prada/Linea Rossa sponsored equipment violated Olympic rules. The IOC then notified Team USA she was out of compliance and had to either paint over the logo – or use another board.
During a practice round for the women’s big air event, Marino was apparently so distracted by the controversy that she ended up crashing and injuring herself.
Meanwhile, the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee were engaged in high-level negotiations, with the USOPC strongly arguing Marino’s case behind the scenes.
In a letter to the IOC obtained by Front Office Sports, the USOPC argued that Marino had the same right to compete with her Prada board as other competitors did with their Burton and Roxy snowboards.
“Finally, covering the logo is not a feasible option. The logo is molded to the board and altering it would cause drag and interrupt the surface intended to glide,” warned USOPC vice president Dean Nakamura in the letter.
“For these reasons, we ask the IOC to reconsider its position and allow Julia Marino to use the board used during the Snowboard Slopestyle competition.”
But the IOC would not change its mind. Marino had to cover the white Prada letters on the bottom of her board.
As Nakamura predicted, the alternations slowed her down enough that she took another painful spill, forcing her to withdraw from the big air finals.
Marino, winner of the 2016 Big Air event at Fenway Park, told her side of the story in an Instagram post.
“For everyone asking, the night before the big air [competition], the IOC told me they no longer approved my board even [though] they approved it for slope … They told me I would be disqualified if I didn’t cover the logo and obligated me to literally draw on the base of my board with a sharpie,” the Westport, Conn. native wrote.
“Anyway I dropped into the jump to see how the tailbone felt after taking a slam the other day in practice and after my base being altered. I had no speed for the jump and wasn’t able to clear it several times. Was just feeling pretty physically and mentally drained from this distraction and the slam I took. I was super-hyped with how I did in slope, my main event, and decided not to risk further injury even [though] that didn’t appear to be the top priority of the IOC.”
The USOPC and IOC could not be reached for comment for this story.