Lindsey Vonn Makes A Statement
After yet another spectacular performance by Lindsey Vonn Friday in Lake Louise, Canada, one seriously has to wonder: why can't she ski against the guys?
Vonn won the first of three World Cup races over the weekend in Lake Louise, a downhill, by an absurd 1.73 seconds.
American Stacey Cook took second -- her first-ever World Cup podium and the first 1-2 finish for U.S. women in a World Cup downhill since 2006. Germany's Maria Hoefl-Riesch and Liechtenstein's Tina Weirather tied for third, one-hundredth of a second behind Cook.
Vonn had petitioned skiing's international governing authority, FIS, for permission to race here last week against the men. FIS turned her down, essentially saying that men race against men and that's that.
Since then, Max Gartner, the president of Alpine Canada, has said he's in talks with Red Bull, which sponsors Vonn, to put together a race, and to hold it at Lake Louise.
Such a race would be a marketing and publicity boon for a sport that needs it, especially here in the United States.
Alpine skiing is great stuff. Lindsey Vonn is a great champion. FIS should put her front and center, someway, somehow. What's so difficult about that?
Aksel Lund Svindal, the two-time overall men's World Cup champion from Norway, gets it, and told the Canadian Press: "I've trained with her. My experience is if you are on a hill that she likes and you don't ski good, she can beat you. It's realistic that she would be in the race."
Vonn said after flying down the course Friday, "Well, I kind of felt like I had to win today. I mean, like you say you want to race with the men -- you can't really not win the women's races. I knew that. I was trying to prove a point, mostly to myself but to everyone else who doesn't think I should race with the men. I don't know. I just do my best."
Lindsey Vonn's best, especially at Lake Louise, is so good one struggles to keep finding words to describe just how good.
The first victory of her career -- ever -- came in Lake Louise, in 2004.
Friday's victory marked her 54th. She now stands one behind Vreni Schneider on the all-time women's list.
It was her 12th in Lake Louise -- 10 in the downhill, two in super-G.
It was her fifth straight victory there and first of the still-young 2012-13 World Cup season.
Last year, she won the first of the two Lake Louise downhills in 1:53.19. Her winning margin in that race was an absurd 1.95 seconds.
She followed that up by winning the Saturday downhill by "only" 1.68 seconds, and then winning Sunday's super-G.
This year, her winning time Friday: 1:52.61. At the second speed check, she was flying along at 84 mph.
Making all this even more outlandish: Vonn was in a Vail, Colo., hospital just a little over two weeks ago with stomach pains. In a column she writes in the Denver Post, she said that after she was released it made her tired just walking down the hall of her condo: 'I felt like I was 100 years old, and I couldn't even think about skiing.'
At the end of last Saturday's race in Aspen, she collapsed in exhaustion.
This, however, has always been the Lindsey Vonn way.
She has faced a succession of extraordinary challenges: a crash in the downhill in Torino in 2006, a gashed thumb in Val d'Isere in 2009, a banged-up shin before the Olympics in Vancouver in 2010.
Inevitably, she rises to the occasion.
After the race Friday, Vonn was asked -- naturally -- how she felt, and if you were the other women in the field, maybe you would be giving some thought to the notion of whether she ought to race the guys at Lake Louise, because this is what she had to say: "It just gives me confidence."