The International Skiing Federation (FIS) stuck a pin in the bubble of excitement surrounding American skier Lindsey Vonn's bid to race with the men in the downhill at Lake Louise Winterstart later this month.
FIS officials announced their decision following their autumn meeting in Switzerland on Saturday, stating only that "one gender is not entitled to participate in the races of the other and exceptions will not be made to the FIS Rules. In terms of her request to participate in the men's downhill in Lake Louise, she is welcome to submit a request to the Organizing Committee and jury to be a forerunner."
Vonn is the most dominant female ski racer of this generation with four overall World Cup championships and 97 World Cup medals to her credit dating back to her first win in 2004. She's also the dominant female skier at Lake Louise, posting nine of her 26 World Cup wins in the women's downhill and super G.
The men and women race different courses at Lake Louise so it's impossible to tell how she would stack up against the men year over year. It's also not clear at this point whether she would enter the race as a forerunner, which would result in a timed but unranked run on the same track.
Vonn did not comment publicly by press time, but Bill Marolt, the president and CEO of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association expressed his disappointment on her behalf.
"Lindsey Vonn is a great champion in our sport and we have always respected her interests in this new challenge," he stated. "It's important for us to support athletes like Lindsey. She has achieved greatness from her tenacity in seeking new challenges. We're disappointed that the FIS Council did not support the proposal but also respect its direction. Now we have to keep a strong focus on the World Championships this season and the 2014 Olympics."
Max Gartner, the president of Alpine Canada, was also supportive of Vonn's bid.
"I'm disappointed to hear that Lindsey will not be racing against the men in Lake Louise," he said. "I saw it as a great opportunity to raise the profile of the sport by attracting interest from people who do not normally follow ski racing, particularly in North America. It would have provided a great platform to showcase our sport and the amazing athletic performances of our athletes.
"Lindsey has achieved many milestones in women's ski racing. It would have been interesting to see how she stacked up against the best male racers in the world. Lake Louise is the perfect venue to have that comparison because Lindsey has as much experience on the mountain as many of the men have had.
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