It shouldn’t come as a surprise that alpine ski legend Lindsey Vonn finds inspiration in women’s tennis great Billie Jean King, who famously defeated then-retired men’s standout Bobby Riggs in 1973’s “Battle of the Sexes.” Having already amassed seven World Championship and three Olympic medals against women in her illustrious career, Vonn now wants to compete against men.
However, her quest to race against men and conquer her male counterparts on a professional stage has been delayed.
Vonn submitted a request in 2017 to the International Ski Federation requesting permission to compete against men, and the organization said it would vote on it in May at its biennial FIS Congress in Costa Navarino, Greece. However, on May 16 — while the meeting was taking place — the federation stated that the topic had been tabled.
“I didn’t actually intend for [the vote] to get pushed back. I had hoped that they would still vote on it during this International Ski Federation session,” Vonn told FN. “I felt they should have voted on it this session.”
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On Vonn’s request, the International Ski Federation wrote in a statement: “The topic of gender equality was discussed, and the subcommittee is supporting various recommendations to improve gender balance within the FIS Council, the Congress and the various committees. Also, it will be proposed that two athletes can represent the athletes’ commission in the FIS Council, one lady and one man. As no renewed proposal was brought up regarding Lindsey Vonn’s request to race with the men in Lake Louise, this topic was tabled indefinitely.”
This idea of competing against men, Vonn said, is a long time coming.
“It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time, mostly because I train with men and it raises my level of skiing,” the Under Armour-backed athlete told FN. “Men are obviously the pinnacle of our sport — they’re faster and stronger than us. I want to see how I compare to the best in the world.”
Despite gender differences, the skier believes the athletic inequities between women and men aren’t vast.
“Everyone’s training, becoming stronger, faster and smarter about being more athletic from a younger age,” Vonn said. “Women will inherently become closer to men as time goes on, and there are definitely women already who have enough skill and talent to compete with men.”
But overcoming that obstacle won’t be easy. And Vonn believes it will take a modern-day King to do it.
“We need someone to break down that [gender] barrier, and when that happens, it will be a great thing for sports in general,” Vonn said.
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