'Put me in the dang race': Lindsey Vonn willing to forgo women's World Cup to face men
FIS to decide in May whether she can go head-to-head against opposite sex
Lindsey Vonn would sacrifice the women's World Cup in Lake Louise, Alta., next year to compete against men.
Turned down by the world governing body of her sport five years ago, the American ski star has renewed her request to race the men on a mountain where she's been victorious 18 times.
FIS will decide in the spring whether the most decorated woman in alpine skiing can go head-to-head against men in Lake Louise in 2018.
Since the men's and women's courses are so similar, competing in the men's races a week before the women's World Cup could be seen as giving Vonn an unfair advantage for the latter.
Vonn, 33, says she's willing to forego the women's event in 2018 if it means entry into the men's.
'It's a sacrifice for me'
With a record 77 career women's World Cup victories, Vonn is closing in on the men's mark of 86 held by Ingemar Stenmark.
Surrendering potential women's World Cup wins is a significant concession for her, particularly in a place that's nicknamed "Lake Lindsey" because of her dominance.
"It's a sacrifice for me. This is one of my best venues," Vonn told The Canadian Press Tuesday. "That tells everyone how serious I am about it."
The 2010 Olympic women's downhill champion and four-time overall World Cup winner initially asked FIS in 2012 to race the men in Lake Louise.
Vonn was turned down so emphatically, there seemed little chance of a change in attitude.
Vonn wants to 'push the glass ceiling'
"It's important to try to push the glass ceiling," she said. "The higher each person can push it, the more opportunities the next generation will have. If I can get this accomplished, who knows what's possible down the road?
"Billie Jean King set the bar when she had Battle of the Sexes and everyone thought it was show, but it changed women in sports and it changed tennis. It helped women get equal pay.
"There's so many positives about letting this happen. I just don't see how the FIS could say no, but they definitely have been saying no."
U.S. Ski and Snowboard asked for a one-time exception for Vonn. FIS's executive board decided in October to table the matter until it meets again in May because her request was for the 2018-19 season.
"I'm running out of time, so I'm putting the pressure on and trying to get this accomplished before my career is over," Vonn said.
"I just really want to do this. It's a personal goal of mine. I want this opportunity because I want to see where I would stand. I've accomplished so much in my career, but that's one thing that's eluded me."
World Cup season approaching
The first downhill of the women's World Cup season is Friday at the resort west of Calgary, followed by another downhill Saturday and a super-G on Sunday.
After sweeping the three races in 2015, Vonn didn't race in Lake Louise last year because of a broken arm.
She was eighth in the first of three scheduled training runs Tuesday.
Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein was the quickest in one minute 51.41 seconds.
She was just two hundredths of a second ahead of Elena Fanchini of Italy and three hundredths faster than Italian Soffia Goggia.
Marie-Michele Gagnon of Lac-Etchemin, Que., was the top Canadian in 25th.
Osborne-Paradis welcomes challenge
Canadian men's team skier Manuel Osborne-Paradis would welcome racing against Vonn, on the condition her start number is towards the back of the pack.
"I think it's great. We're talking about a world of equality here," Osborne-Paradis said. "The hard part is just the fine print. Figuring out where she's going to start."
Skiers are ranked according to World Cup points they accumulate, which also determines their start number in races. A top-30 start bib is an advantage because the course is more pristine earlier in the race.
"There are a lot of men that have needed to prove themselves before they get a good start number," Osborne-Paradis pointed out. "Where does she get to start?"
Vonn says she'll go last if necessary.
"I wouldn't have a great chance of doing well, but whatever it takes" she said. "Just put me in the dang race."