SOELDEN, Austria - Lindsey Vonn reiterated her ambition to race against men, revealing she wants to compete on the challenging and dangerous Kitzbuehel downhill course — after her retirement from the women's circuit.
The four-time overall World Cup champion, who is awaiting approval by skiing's governing body to start in the men's downhill in Lake Louise next month, said she would like to race on the Streif course after ending her career, the Austria Press Agency reported Friday.
"I would have less worries about getting injured then," said Vonn, who is the Olympic downhill champion.
The 3.3-kilometre Streif downhill is widely regarded one of the most frightening courses with a maximum grade of 85 per cent. The course has been the scene of several bad crashes in recent years, with racers Scott Macartney, Daniel Albrecht and Hans Grugger all sustaining near-fatal head injuries.
Vonn, who turned 28 on Thursday, said this week she will compete with the men only in Lake Louise if FIS allows her to start in the women's race on the same course the following week.
"If it's not possible to do the women's race in Lake Louise, I am definitely not going to start in the men's race," Vonn said. "But I will keep on fighting for my goal."
If Vonn were allowed to challenge the men, she would likely to be denied a start in the women's race to prevent her from getting an advantage over her female rivals.
The decision-making FIS Council could decide on the matter at its Nov. 3-4 meeting in Oberhofen, Switzerland — but only after the U.S. ski team formally requested the federation to allow her in, which it hasn't done so far.
"This is still in discussion," U.S. ski team spokesman Doug Haney told The Associated Press on Friday.
Vonn said racing against men was "a goal for me, for my life ... I thought Lake Louise would be the best race for me because I know that course. On all other courses the men use, I would have no chance as I have never raced on them."
Vonn's ambition has triggered a discussion among skiers, some favouring her request, others opposing.
"I don't fear her, but I think it's cool," men's overall World Cup champion Marcel Hirscher said. "If this is what she really wants to do, then let her do it."
Felix Neureuther, on the contrary, said Vonn should put the idea out of her head.
"On the women's side, she's the absolute No. 1 in downhill and maybe the best downhill racer of all time," the German said. "But she should stick to what she can do best. A men's downhill is definitely a completely different story."
Vonn said she was overwhelmed by the reactions to her plan.
"I was surprised how it exploded," she said. "It was just the question, which steps had to be made so I could do it once. Suddenly it's a giant story."
The new World Cup season starts with women's and men's giant slaloms at the Soelden glacier on Oct. 27-28.
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