Final fall, Lindsey Vonn, a gold-medal Olympian and the second winningest World Cup skier of all time,6 repeated a request she’d made earlier than: to race towards males. U.S. Ski & Snowboard made a proper petition on her behalf to the International Ski Federation (FIS), which at the moment does not allow mixed-gender competitions.7 The FIS received’t rule on the petition till spring on the earliest, in order Vonn competes in Pyeongchang this weekend, she received’t know if she is going to ever get an opportunity to race towards her male friends.8
Vonn’s quest made us marvel: What would the Olympics seem like if women and men skied towards one another? We acquired outcomes for 4 Alpine occasions within the Winter Olympics9 going again to 1948 and regarded on the median pace10 for rivals within the males’s and girls’s occasions in annually.11
In slalom, big slalom and the super-G, girls’s and males’s performances appear to range as compared to one another. Nonetheless, in downhill, the occasion that the majority emphasizes pace reasonably than making turns, the boys constantly run forward of the ladies — although feminine downhill skiers at this time are quicker on the whole than the boys who competed within the late 1970s and earlier.
However these comparisons disguise a key distinction between the boys’s and girls’s competitions: specifically, the programs themselves. Women and men not often race on the identical programs, that are set based on totally different tips, with males’s programs requiring a higher change in elevation. Programs additionally range of their steepness, however there has not been a marked distinction within the common gradient of males’s and girls’s programs. Which means males’s programs, which are likely to have the identical gradient as girls’s however a higher vertical change, are often longer than girls’s. In different Winter Olympic sports activities the place occasions are outlined by their lengths, resembling cross-country skiing and biathlon, the ladies’s races are additionally virtually at all times considerably shorter.12
So right here’s one other query: Is there any cause for ladies’s Alpine programs to be shorter? For instance, do girls go quicker on shorter programs, both relative to themselves or to males? (Although that in itself wouldn’t be a cause that girls’s programs needed to be shorter however would possibly give some clarification as to why they’re.) To analyze, we plotted common pace versus course size for the successful feminine competitor in every occasion for yearly.
As girls have gotten quicker, they’ve additionally been racing longer distances. Plainly distance isn’t a limiting issue for feminine skiers. And but, whereas the vary of girls’s speeds is akin to that of males’s — and even in some occasions, resembling super-G, girls have the quickest common speeds in our dataset — in no occasion have girls raced on the longest programs (although in lots of circumstances they raced the identical distance or higher than males did in different Olympic years).
Aside from any questions of inequality, this characteristic of Alpine snowboarding makes evaluating males’s and girls’s performances very troublesome. Distance could, in truth, have an effect on common speeds, and requiring separate programs additionally signifies that different components, like gate placement and steepness, can be totally different for males’s and girls’s races.
The separation of genders in Alpine snowboarding, mixed with the truth that girls are often requested to do lower than males, implies that if women and men had been in head-to-head competitors, girls would by no means have a shot at gold.13 However we merely don’t know for positive if that’s true — with all of the variations between males’s and girls’s races, the info can’t actually inform us. Vonn herself has expressed doubts about how she would carry out immediately towards males, telling the Denver Submit, “I do know I’m not going to win.”
“However,” she mentioned, “I wish to at the least have the chance to strive.”