FIS council members met in on Saturday in Oberhofen, Switzerland for their annual Autumn Meeting. The International Ski Federation is of course, the governing body for Olympic and World Cup level ski and snowboard events. Since being founded in 1924, they have set and maintained international competition rules for Alpine Skiing, Cross-Country Skiing, Ski Jumping, Nordic Combined, Freestyle Skiing and Snowboarding. Today’s meeting featured a number of items pertaining to the current and upcoming World Cup seasons. Business ranged from calendar changes, to hearing proposals from FIS Technical Committees. Of all the items on the agenda, the request by Olympic and World Cup Champion Skier Lindsey Vonn was perhaps the most important – if not the most visible.
Earlier in October, Lindsey Vonn made headlines with her request to compete with the men during the upcoming World Cup alpine event in Lake Louise, Alberta, November 24-25. In her original proposal, Vonn offered to ski for no points during the event. It was then placed in the hands of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association to determine if they would send a request to the International Ski Federation on the skier’s behalf. After careful deliberation the USSA did in fact send the request to the FIS this past week, thus moving Vonn one step closer to realizing her goal.
With the conclusion of today’s meeting, we’ve learned that the FIS Council has denied Vonn’s request to ski with the men in Lake Louise. In their official announcement, the council stated, “they respected Lindsey Vonn’s proposal to participate in men’s World Cup races and confirmed that one gender is not entitled to participate in 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.”
This is a particularly interesting take on the decision, and definitely sets a precedent for these types of gender requests going forward. Original speculation assumed the decision would rely heavily on the FIS rule stating that no athlete shall receive an unfair advantage by training on a World Cup racecourse during the five days proceeding a training day or competition. With the close proximity between the dates of the men’s and women’s events at Lake Louise, most figured Lindsey would have to choose between racing with the men or competing in the subsequent women’s event. Even Lindsey said that she would not sacrifice the opportunity for World Cup points, but with this ruling, there won’t be any need to make that call now.
For now, Lindsey Vonn and her supporters will have to be content watching the four time champion dominate the women’s World Cup division in her quest for her 5th championship. Starting in Lake Louise, you can bet everyone will be watching Lindsey’s times much more closely to see where she stacks up against her male counterparts. While this is sure to be a let down for the USSA and Vonn, this short saga has succeeded in raising the profile for the U.S. women’s alpine program as well as 2012/2013 Audi FIS World Cup season.
Hope everyone brought their popcorn, cause it’s going to be an exciting season!