Lindsey Vonn furthers case to race with men as she sets Lake Louise on fire with words and speed

Lindsey Vonn of the U.S. tears up the course at Lake Louise during training runs for this weekend’s...

Lindsey Vonn of the U.S. tears up the course at Lake Louise during training runs for this weekend’s World Cup, Nov. 27, 2012. (MIKE BLAKE/Reuters)

ERIC FRANCIS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:03 AM ET

CALGARY - Lindsey Vonn made two more powerful statements Tuesday in her bid to race against men.

First, she blazed down the course dubbed “Lake Lindsey” at Lake Louise at speeds no men reached the weekend before.

Then, she reiterated she is looking into legal avenues with an eye on overturning the discriminating ruling made by the International Ski Federation (FIS) that suggested she can’t race men on the World Cup circuit simply because she’s a woman.

Both opening salvos came minutes after winning her first training run of the week by nearly a full second and two weeks after being hospitalized with a stomach infection.

Nothing less should have been expected from the only female skier in North America with a household name — a name FIS should have used to help market a sport virtually ignored on this side of the globe.

So ignorant was the ruling erlier this month, Alpine Canada president Max Gartner immediately went to work on trying to capitalize on Vonn’s desires by opening talks with her sponsor Red Bull on hosting an exhibition race between her and several top men.

“I’m really happy and thankful that Max has come out and supported me so strongly, and I’m really excited to know about the idea of an exhibition, but to be honest, I really want to race in a real race,” the Olympic gold-medalist told reporters in Lake Louise, where she has 11 career wins and 17 podium finishes.

“If my only option is to race in an exhibition, I will 100% do that, but I’m still hoping to race in an actual World Cup.”

The 28-year-old American told Eurosport last week she was discussing her legal options with her father, who is a lawyer, with an eye on forcing FIS to allow her to ski at Lake Louise next year with men. Vonn sees Lake Louise as her only viable option to ski with the men, as it’s the only World Cup venue where both genders race speed events.

Last week, she rebounded from the stomach ailment to race in Aspen, Colo. At the same time, the men’s World Cup speed circuit opened at Lake Louise, where she’d hoped to draw rare attention to her sports by pulling an Annika/Billie-Jean with a one-shot test.

As Vonn astutely pointed out, this is 2012 — a time when gender generally isn’t and shouldn’t be an issue.

She said she’s respectfully hoping to see if there’s another way to approach a situation in that the stodgy old guard at FIS simply can’t see the forest for the trees.

It’s a wonderful, exciting opportunity for the sport in North America and around the world, and Vonn is hoping officials can see that before she has to flex her legal muscles.

“I really want to race in a real race,” said the defending overall World Cup champion in a post-run scrum on YouTube that included Sportsnet.

“The tricky part about exhibitions is while it’s still great for the sport and will still draw a lot of attention, I think the men would take it differently and the atmosphere would be different, and I actually want to compete in a situation where points are on the line and I’m competing in a normal race. That’s what I want.”

In preparation for the season-opening downhills Friday and Saturday, Vonn reached speeds of 136 km/h, catching the attention of 1992 Olympic downhill champ Kerrin Lee-Gartner, who took to Twitter to point out Vonn eclipsed speeds clocked by all the men a week earlier.

Although the women’s course has three more gates and the course conditions vary from day to day, the man who won both races at Louise on the weekend, Aksel Lund Svindal, topped out at 134 km/h.

Training runs continue Wednesday, as will Vonn’s dominance.

eric.francis@sunmedia.ca

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