Vonn seeks backing to take on men in World Cup challenge
Lindsey Vonn wants to challenge the men’s downhill skiers in a World Cup race next month – but she will have to wait for the support of the United States team and Alpine skiing’s governing body.
The United States ski federation said yesterday afternoon that it has not yet had a “formal discussion” about the possibility of its star racer challenging the men on 24 November in Lake Louise, Alberta.
Vonn, the women’s Olympic downhill champion, has written to the International Ski Federation to ask whether she can make the historic start at a venue where she has earned nine of her 26 World Cup downhill victories. The Canadian course – often dubbed “Lake Lindsey” for her dominance there – stages women’s races, including two downhills, the following weekend.
FIS, however, can’t make a decision on Vonn until the US ski team makes a formal request to let her enter.
“There’s not anything to say until we have a proposal from the national association,” FIS secretary general Sarah Lewis said yesterday.
The US Ski and Snowboard Association would need to submit a request before the decision-making FIS Council next meets on 3-4 November in Oberhofen, Switzerland – but has yet to decide whether to do so.
“We clearly have great respect for Lindsey, her accomplishments in the sport and her desire to seek this new challenge,” Tom Kelly, vice president of communications for the U.S.S.A., said in a statement. “But we have not had any formal discussion yet between Lindsey and FIS.”
“As with any issue or opportunity, decisions we make are management decisions but include all appropriate parties,” Kelly wrote.
Team obligations to broadcaster NBC are a likely factor after it committed to starting live coverage of World Cup races on its NBC Sports Network cable channel this season.
When the men are racing on 24-25 November in Lake Louise, the women’s World Cup circuit makes its one scheduled stop in the United States, with giant slalom and slalom races scheduled on a holiday weekend program at Aspen, Colorado.
In an August news release, the USSA. said “live coverage will feature Olympic champions Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso from the Nature Valley Aspen Winternational Thanksgiving weekend.”
“We would weigh all elements, including TV, in the context of how we can best support athletes like Lindsey,” Kelly wrote in an email reply to the Associated Press.
A FIS rule limiting athletes’ access to extra training time on slopes so close to race days also counts against Vonn’s chances.
By taking part in men’s training and races at Lake Louise, the rule would bar Vonn from the subsequent women’s races – two downhills and a super-G – for having gained an unfair advantage in familiarizing herself with the slope.
Vonn may be unwilling to jeopardise losing race points which have been the foundation of her four overall World Cup titles and five straight downhill season trophies.
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