When the virtually unstoppable Lindsey Vonn first petitioned the International Ski Federation (FIS) to let her race in the men’s season-opening World Cup downhill race, it sounded like, well, a publicity stunt. But now her request is likely to get more careful consideration, thanks to recent backing from the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. In fact, the FIS is set to discuss the matter this weekend, during a meeting of the federation's rule-making council in Switzerland.
Vonn, who has claimed 53 World Cup titles (close to the all-time record of 62 victories), set her sights on the men’s competition to be held on Nov. 24 in Lake Louise, Alberta. She says it's something she's talked about for years, but never formally pursued until now. "I have discussed racing against men with my coaches and friends for years," she told CBCsports. "For me, that is the next level. Men race with so much strength and more pace. I want to try it one time.”
A possible hang-up in Vonn's plan is that the Nov. 24 race falls just six days before the women’s competition on the same course. While FIS rules don't explicitly ban women from men’s races, they do prohibit skiers from training on runs within a week of racing on them, which, in theory, gives them an unfair advantage over their competitors. Vonn says she won't race with the men (for which she'd have to miss women's races in Aspen, CO) if her participation would ban her from the women’s competitions at Lake Louise.
Vonn came up short this past weekend in the season-opening women's World Cup giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, falling on her second run after she hooked a gate with her left arm. She managed to escape injury, but was beaten by Slovenian Tina Maze, who was runner-up to Vonn in last year's overall standings. It's not clear whether the fluke fall and subsequent loss are likely to affect the FIS' decision this weekend.