Lindsey Vonn

Star female athletes who competed against men weigh in on Lindsey Vonn

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Lindsey Vonn turned 29 years old Friday, and what a life-changing 365 days it’s been for the Olympic champion downhill skier.

A year ago, Vonn was in the news for her dominance on the slopes. She requested the chance to compete against men on the Alpine skiing World Cup, a bid that was rejected by the International Ski Federation (FIS), citing rules that one gender is not allowed to compete against another in FIS races.

That storyline subsided as others elevated this year.

Vonn blew out her right knee at the World Championships in February (video here), announced a relationship with Tiger Woods, attended every major golf tournament, and set a return to competitive skiing (against women only) for as early as Oct. 26.

If Vonn returns to form and racks up win after win, talk could very well resurface of racing men. She is three World Cup wins away from Annemarie Moser-Proell‘s female record (62). The men’s mark held by Swede Ingemar Stenmark (86) is ambitious but not unattainable.

Some of the greatest athletes of all time gathered in New York this week for the Women’s Sports Foundation awards. Among them were women who competed against men — golfer Annika Sorenstam, tennis player Billie Jean King and hockey player Angela Ruggiero.

The Swede Sorenstam played at the PGA Tour event at Colonial in 2003, becoming the first woman to play on the PGA Tour since Olympic track and field champion Babe Didrikson Zaharias in 1945.

“I think it’s a terrific goal,” Sorenstam said of Vonn facing men. “I was in a time in my career when I needed something to push me a little extra. I look back at my career, and it was one of the highlights. … It really helps you elevate your own game.”

King swept Bobby Riggs in the “Battle of the Sexes” in 1973. She believes Vonn racing against men could boost women’s sports as a whole.

“When (Sorenstam) played on the PGA, I watched that weekend,” King said. “She was in every single frame for two days. She never gets that. We never get that kind of attention in women’s sports.

“Because 95 percent of the media is controlled by men, if we get into their arena, then we finally get some attention. Otherwise, on our own, we don’t get the attention. But if she would go up against the men, I guarantee you she would get 20, 30, 40 times the attention. Just with the attention, with all the branding that’s going on today, you have to ask yourself a lot of different questions. When I played Riggs, I didn’t have to deal with all that.”

In 2005, Ruggiero became the first woman to play men’s professional hockey at a position other than goalie in North America. She suited up for the Tulsa Oilers of the Central Hockey League.

Ruggiero, now an International Olympic Committee member, said she talked to Vonn about facing men when the skier considered it last year.

“It would do so much for the sport,” Ruggiero said. “I know when I played men’s hockey in the Central League, the media exposure you get alone, but it’s also a new challenge for her. You have to respect her as an athlete. She’s been at the top of her game for so long, and she’s looking for new ways to evolve.”

Vonn trains in Austria with eye on World Cup return

Usain Bolt would have considered 2020 Olympics if he lost medal before Rio

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If Usain Bolt had lost his 2008 Olympic relay medal before the Rio Games, instead of last month, maybe he would have considered trying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“Maybe if it had come before the Olympics, maybe it would have taken away a little from me, and then I would have thought about [2020],” Bolt said in a CNN interview published Monday of dropping from nine Olympic golds to eight due to teammate Nesta Carter‘s doping, “but the fact that I got the chance to say, ‘the triple-triple,’ kind of made me feel good.”

In Rio, Bolt completed his “triple-triple” at his final Olympics, sweeping the 100m, 200m and 4x100m titles at a third straight Games. Bolt raced with the knowledge that Carter had failed retests of 2008 Olympic samples but had yet to receive any punishment.

Five months later, the triple-triple was no more.

On Jan. 25, the IOC announced teammate Nesta Carter was retroactively disqualified from the Beijing Games. Carter was on Jamaica’s 4x100m relay team in Beijing, so the entire team was stripped of medals, including Bolt.

Carter is appealing his punishment.

Carter also joined Bolt on gold-medal-winning 4x100m relays at the 2012 Olympics and the world championships in 2011, 2013 and 2015. Carter was not disqualified from those meets like he was the 2008 Beijing Games.

Bolt said he had no fear or worry about the possibility of having to return more relay gold medals.

“Even if I lose all my relay gold medals, for me, I did what I had to do, my personal goals,” Bolt said in the CNN interview that appeared to take place two weeks ago in Monaco. “That’s what counts.”

Bolt also said he had not spoken to Carter since the ruling was handed down.

“My friends have asked me what I’m going to say [to Carter], but I don’t know,” Bolt said, repeating that he had no hard feelings toward Carter.

Bolt’s next scheduled meet is the Racers Grand Prix in Kingston on June 10, but he could (and likely will given his past) sign up for another race between now and then.

MORE: Bolt meets Michael Phelps, predicts when 100m world record will fall

Lindsey Vonn among Olympic medalists in documentary about gender in sports

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Olympic medalists Lindsey VonnHilary Knight and Ann Meyers-Drysdale will feature in TOMBOY, an hourlong, multi-platform documentary project aiming to elevate the conversation about gender in sports.

TOMBOY, which will premiere in March, is told through the voices of many of the world’s most prominent female athletes, broadcasters and sports executives.

It will air across all NBC Sports Regional Networks, NBCSN and select NBC-owned TV stations (check local listings). Clips can be found here. More information can be found here.

In an interview clip, Vonn discusses a challenge unique to her sport — fear.

“In my sport, you can’t be afraid,” said the 2010 Olympic downhill champion, who continues to come back from high-speed crashes and major injuries. “Ski racing is an incredibly dangerous sport. It definitely would not be safe if you were afraid of going 90 miles per hour.”

Knight, a two-time Olympic silver medalist, said that at age 5 one of her grandmothers told her that girls don’t play hockey.

“Since age 5, I’ve been working toward an Olympic dream,” said Knight, the MVP of the last two world championships. “Fifteen years later, I ended up at my first Olympic Games.”

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VIDEO: Vonn crashes out of World Cup super-G