In 2006, figure-skating champ Michelle Kwan accepted a post as a public diplomat for the United States. Kwan was a natural fit for the post. She is poised, charismatic and (thanks to multiple titles and Olympic medals) recognizable. Her story (second-generation American, determined athlete, world champion) reflects many of the national values the United States likes to promote abroad.
So last night, watching the closing ceremonies, I started to wonder: If I were scanning the ranks of 2010 athletes for future diplomats, who would I recommend? Personally, I think I'd have to go with Shaun White. I've loved this kid since the 2006 games, when his half-time performance saved my friends and me from a serious case of Bode Bummer. He never fails to please. Plus, they call him "the Flying Tomato." There's just something inherently likable about him. Obviously snowboarding finesse isn't going to resonate with all foreign publics, but I think White has a lot of the characteristics a good public diplomat needs: charisma, patriotism, optimism. Plus, he's laid back, good natured and incredibly talented. What's not to love?
I'll open the Comments section to more suggestions. Who's your pick for 2010 Sports Diplomat?