Lindsey Vonn isn’t going to take no for an answer.
The skier said Wednesday she’s determined to race against men whether the International Ski Federation gives its approval or not. The FIS has been less than enthusiastic about Vonn’s proposal to race with the men at Lake Louise, Alberta.
Louise hosts World Cup events for both the men and the women, with the men racing a week earlier.
“It’s been a struggle thus far and it doesn’t seem to be getting any easier,” Vonn said Wednesday before an appearance with fellow Olympians Michelle Kwan and Angela Ruggiero at the KPMG Women’s Leadership Summit.
But that won’t deter her.
“Maybe there’s potential to have some sort of exhibition, something like what Billie Jean King did,” Vonn said.
“It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do,” Vonn added. “I feel like having trained with the men a significant amount over the last few years and being competitive with them almost every single day, I feel like I need that opportunity as an athlete to be able to see what my true potential is.
“A lot of people disagree with that, but I think I deserve the opportunity, and the discussion is ongoing.”
The FIS rejected a similar proposal from Vonn back in 2012, saying rules did not allow skiers of different genders to compete against each other. But U.S. Alpine director Patrick Riml has backed Vonn’s latest effort, lobbying the FIS at meetings this spring to consider the idea.
In an interview after those meetings, FIS women’s race director Atle Skaardal didn’t rule out the idea but called it “very difficult.”
“One point that everyone is underestimating, is that we need to have equal rights for everyone,” Skaardal said in a Q&A posted on the FIS website. “So if the ladies’ are allowed to race with the men, then also the men need to be authorized to ski with the ladies. And I’m not sure this is a direction we want to go.”
If Vonn would be allowed to race with the men, Lake Louise makes the most sense. Not only are both circuits there at roughly the same time, but it’s a course where Vonn has had tremendous success. She’s won 18 of her 41 starts in World Cup events, and swept the two downhills and Super-G three times — 2015, 2012 and 2011.
Even if the FIS turns her down again, Vonn will keep trying.
“If we’re not able to do it in an actual race, then we’ll come up with something different,” she said, “because I really would appreciate the opportunity.”
In the meantime, Vonn is focused on her preparations for the Pyeongchang Olympics.
Vonn won the gold medal in downhill in Vancouver and a bronze in the Super-G. She was favored to add to that collection in Sochi, but was forced out of the Games a month before they began after re-injuring her right knee.
“I’m definitely working extremely hard, and I feel like that has to do with the fact that this could potentially be my last Olympics,” said Vonn, who will be 33 in October. “So I’m giving it everything I have.”
By Nancy Armour
This article was republished with permission from the original author and 2015 Ronald Reagan Media Award recipient, Nancy Armour, and the original publisher, USA Today. Follow columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.