February 28, 2017
Vonn at Odds with Officials
For some time now, Lindsey Vonn has been the face of winter sports. The Alpine racer recently made headlines after dropping out of a combined race, along with some teammates, all of whom refused to race in a contest on the World Cup Tour, citing dangerous conditions.
After three racers crashed and one was taken away on a stretcher with what appeared to be a severe knee injury, Vonn said enough was enough. Even after race organizers and officials postponed the race and changed the starting position, Vonn refused to get back on her skis. She told the press:
“For me, I’ve had so many injuries, I don’t need to risk anything today… A lot of the other athletes and coaches were asking me to put pressure on everyone to try to cancel the race because it’s too dangerous and I did my best, but I just pray that no one else gets hurt today. It was a smart decision for our team to pull out of the race…”
The fact that many competitors thought that Vonn has the pull to get the entire race canceled is evidence of what she means to the sport. Other racers supported the decision not to race, saying it’s better to err on the side of safety than to risk a season and, perhaps, career ending injury.
But Vonn was not done dressing down race officials. “First and foremost, if all of the forerunners are crashing and not finishing that’s a sign that something’s wrong… they didn’t listen.”
Vonn said race officials sometimes ignore the comments of athletes, thinking they may just be “whining” and invoking latent sexism. “We’re women, and we’re whining, and we just need to suck it up and race, and that’s not the case. Probably more than half of the field has been injured before … it’s unfortunate that the FIS doesn’t listen to us…”
And that’s the comment that really drew attention. By talking honestly about her impressions related to sexism in competitive sports, Vonn took a stand that was sure to get headlines. But the nature of her comments will divide the public, even those unfamiliar with the situation. One person who gave their unfettered support to Vonn was Paul Kristofic, the US Women’s coach. “Everyone has to make their own choice. Everyone can have an opinion on that… but we have to respect the decision of the racers, especially top ones who are fighting for FIS titles.”
And that, in this case, is the bottom line. Another racer may not have been able to get away with taking this stand and saying these things. But none of the tour organizers are ready to give their biggest draw the boot.