Vonn’s women-vs-men race remains a dream 10 years later

Despite all that Lindsey Vonn has accomplished during a brilliant career, one of the great skier’s dreams never came true: to race against men.

At the peak of his career, Vonn announced plans to compete in Canada at a men’s downhill World Cup in Lake Louise, Canada in November 2012.

It didn’t happen for various reasons, but the American’s idea still captures the imagination of skiers 10 years later.

Photo: AP

“If it’s just for a show and for the excitement and a show?” Great, let’s do it. I think people would be interested,” Mikaela Shiffrin said on Friday ahead of the FIS Alpine Skiing World Cup season, which was due to start yesterday in Austria, but the day’s events were canceled due to weather.

Shiffrin won her fourth overall title last season to equal Vonn’s career tally, and she’s closing in on her former teammate’s record of 82 Women’s World Cup wins.

Italian speed specialist Sofia Goggia had her own suggestion.

“Maybe I would like to have a kind of combined, with women in downhill and men in slalom. It would be interesting, like running as a team,” said Goggia, the 2018 Olympic downhill champion and close friend of Vonn.

“But the women on one discipline and the men on the other discipline. Otherwise it wouldn’t be fair,” said the Italian.

Vonn’s idea is also supported by male skiers.

“At the time, when Lindsey was trying to do it, I was all for it,” said Olympic super-G silver medalist Ryan Cochran-Siegle. “It’s interesting, where we have so many amazing athletes and yet we’re divided. It was unfortunate with Lindsey, because I thought it would be cool, especially in Lake Louise where she had so much success.

Vonn had won Olympic downhill gold in 2010 and earned her fourth big Crystal Globe two years later when she expressed her desire to race against men’s competition at the start of the 2012-13 season.

“For me, that’s the next level,” Vonn said at the time. “Men run with so much strength and more pace. I want to try once. Once.”

The idea made headlines for weeks, but Vonn and the US Ski Team ultimately refrained from making a formal request to the FIS governing body once it became clear that the race men’s race would cost her too many starts on the women’s circuit – including not being allowed to enter the women’s events at Lake Louise the following week because having skied the course a few days before would give her an unfair advantage.

Vonn had to put her idea aside for good following a series of serious knee injuries which hampered her in subsequent seasons until her retirement in 2019.

Many women train regularly with men, but aside from low-key parallel team events, the races generally don’t offer direct comparisons.

Olympic slalom champion Petra Vlhova said she does not support the idea of ​​direct competition.

“Men and women, you can’t compare them, they have different bodies,” said the Slovak runner. “If you go shopping with the men, it’s because you want to be everywhere in the newspaper. I don’t need to do this.

Shiffrin also said she wanted to know why direct competition would be necessary.

“Is it to prove that it’s something women in sport deserve, or that we’re good enough to win men’s World Cups? On average, it’s not a comparable thing. It’s comparing apples and oranges,” she said.

Not that the outcome is obvious, Shiffrin said.

“There are certain events under certain conditions where you can kind of close the gap, where a lot of women, especially Lindsey, could beat a lot of men.”

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