Vancouver downhill gold medalist Lindsey Vonn’s formal request to face-off against the men at a World Cup race in Lake Louise, Alberta later this month has been rejected by the International Ski Federation over the weekend, seemingly on the grounds that they just don’t like the idea very much.
“The Council 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,” read a statement released by the FIS.
“In terms of her request to participate in the men’s downhill at Lake Louise, she is welcome to submit a request to the Organizing Committee and jury to be a forerunner.”
A forerunner is essentially someone who skis the course to make sure there are no problems. Their time is kept and marked, but the results are not part of the official competition and are not released to anyone but the athlete. They alone have the freedom to make it public.
Austria’s Marlies Schild set the precedent for Vonn when she skied as a forerunner at a slalom race in her home country earlier this year. Marlies would have finished in the top 30.
Similarly American gold medalist Bode Miller skied as a forerunner for a women’s race in 2003 during a rough patch when he failed to finish four out of five men’s races and was looking to get back on track.
“I saw it as a great opportunity to raise the profile of the sport by attracting interest from people who do not normally follow ski racing, particularly in North America,” Apline Canada President Max Gartner said in a statement after being disappointed by the outcome. “It would have provided a great platform to showcase our sport and the amazing athletic performances of our athletes.”
Vonn, a four-time women’s World Cup downhill champ, hasn’t released a statement regarding her feelings on the FIS’s decision or whether she’ll submit a request to be a forerunner for the Lake Louise race, but we’re certain this won’t be the last time she tries to get on the slopes with the men.
Kendall Gretsch, who won Paralympic titles at the last Summer and Winter Games, added another six gold medals at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Sweden last week.
Gretsch, 30, earned seven total medals in seven days between biathlon and cross-country skiing.
Gretsch won gold medals in three different sports across the last three Paralympics: biathlon and cross-country skiing in 2018 (two years after taking up the sports), triathlon in 2021 and biathlon in 2022.
She plans to shift her focus back to triathlon after this winter for 2024 Paris Games qualification.
Gretsch, born with spina bifida, was the 2014 USA Triathlon Female Para Triathlete of the Year. Though triathlon was added to the Paralympics for the 2016 Rio Games, her classification was not added until Tokyo.
Also at last week’s worlds, six-time Paralympian Aaron Pike earned his first Paralympic or world championships gold medal in his decade-plus career, winning a 12.5km biathlon event.
Oksana Masters, who won seven medals in seven events at last year’s Paralympics to break the career U.S. Winter Paralympics medals record, missed worlds due to hand surgery.
The U.S. also picked up five medals at last week’s World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Spain — three silvers for five-time Paralympian Laurie Stephens and two bronzes for 17-year-old Saylor O’Brien.
Stephens now has 18 career medals from world championships, plus seven at the Paralympics.
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Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.
Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.
The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.
In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.
Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.
“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”