FILE - In this file photo dated Friday Nov. 29, 2019, FIS Secretary General Sarah Lewis attends an Anti-Doping press conference at the FIS World Cup Ruka Nordic event in Kuusamo, Finland. Lewis has declared herself a candidate on Tuesday April 6, 2021, to become the first woman president of the International Ski Federation.(Vesa Moilanen/Lehtikuva FILE via AP)

Lewis running to lead the ski federation that fired her

Lewis running to lead the ski federation that fired her

GENEVA — Sarah Lewis is out to make a surprising comeback in sports politics, declaring herself a candidate to become the first female president of the International Ski Federation only six months after being fired from her role as secretary general.

Lewis, who announced her candidacy on Tuesday, spent 20 years as the top administrator at FIS before being ousted several months into the coronavirus pandemic.

It was an abrupt exit even in the often ruthless world of running Olympic sports bodies, and for one of its most prominent female officials who was untouched by scandal.

The FIS statement of only one sentence last October explained the decision was “based on a complete loss of confidence” in Lewis — though that phrase was soon deleted from its website.

Among the first messages sent to Lewis after her firing asked simply: “Who did you kill? Did you rob a bank?” she told The Associated Press ahead of launching her election campaign.

For added intrigue, one election opponent in the online vote set for June 4, Mats Arjes of Sweden, was a member of the FIS Council that removed her.

Arjes is a FIS vice-president and is seen as the preferred choice of president Gian Franco Kasper, who is leaving one year early after 23 years in office. Swiss ski federation president Urs Lehmann, a former downhill world champion, is also a candidate.

Lewis’ ambition to succeed her long-time boss was known in recent years to FIS observers. But Kasper was thought unlikely to endorse the former skier who competed at the 1988 Calgary Olympics.

Still, her ousting as secretary general was a surprise. It came amid the pandemic, which twice delayed FIS elections, heaped work on staff in Switzerland, and threatened the winter sports season.

“I can’t explain it at all. I was so focused on the COVID season,” Lewis told the AP in a telephone interview. “I was probably blind-sided that there were politics going on behind the scenes.”

So why run for president of an organization whose top committee rejected her?

“I had so many people contact me and so many messages of support,” Lewis said, “all this faith and belief that I am the right person for it.”

Her work ethic and attention to detail is shown by writing letters in the past week in 25 different languages to target voters.

The past six months also gave her time for soul-searching and to reflect on her working style, which she acknowledges was intense and could be “overpowering.”

“I’m not without fault. You realize that is not the best way,” said Lewis, who has since paid her way through a business leadership course. “It was important to learn about myself and my weaknesses so that people feel I have made this transition.”

The British ski federation opted not to support Lewis as candidate and before the pandemic nominated the billionaire leader of ski brand Head, Johan Eliasch. Though Eliasch is Swedish, he is based in London and has been a business associate of Prince Andrew.

Lewis is positioning as a global candidate, counting on strong relationships with past and future Winter Olympic host nations Russia, South Korea and China.

She turned to a smaller ski nation, Belgium, for a formal election nomination. The move was supported by the country’s Olympic leader, IOC member Pierre-Olivier Beckers-Vieujant.

Striving for gender equity is a modern mantra for the International Olympic Committee, and Lewis names Mikaela Shiffrin, Eileen Gu and Therese Johaug among skiing’s biggest recent stars.

However, FIS has had only male presidents in its 97-year history, and Kasper is just the fourth. The council which fired Lewis currently comprises 18 men and one woman.

“It’s very easy to fix,” said Lewis, adding many capable women cannot rise within FIS because their nation already has a man in a senior position.

This does not mean a Lewis presidency would act against those that removed her.

“I don’t have any issue whatsoever with anyone who was involved in that decision,” she insisted. “There are no grudges.”


More AP skiing: and

Graham Dunbar, The Associated Press


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Red Deer Rebels forward Ethan Rowland battles with Medicine Hat Tigers forward Brett Kemp during WHL action at the Centrium Saturday night. (Photo by ROB WALLATOR/Red Deer Rebels)
Tigers claw back, hand Rebels 11th straight loss

Tigers 5 Rebels 2 The same old issues continue to plague the… Continue reading

There were six additional deaths across Alberta reported over the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 1,926 since the beginning of the pandemic. (File photo)
AstraZeneca vaccine is ready to be used at a homeless shelter in Romford, east London, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Frank Augstein
AstraZeneca-linked blood clot confirmed in Alberta

A case of an AstraZeneca-linked blood clot has been confirmed in Alberta,… Continue reading

The Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools Board of Trustees selected the name St. Lorenzo Ruiz Middle School to be built in the north end of Red Deer. (Photo Courtesy of  Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools)
Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raises about $8,720 for Terry Fox Foundation

Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raised about $8,720 for the Terry Fox… Continue reading

A nurse gets a swab ready at a temporary COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal, on Friday, May 15, 2020. Health Canada has reversed course on home test kits for COVID-19, saying it will now review applications for such devices. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Alberta declines Ontario’s request to send health-care workers

Alberta is “not in a position” to send health-care workers out of… Continue reading

Red Deer Public Schools will not pilot the new draft curriculum at its elementary schools. (File photo contributed by Red Deer Public Schools)
UPDATED: Red Deer Public Schools says no to piloting new curriculum

Alberta Teachers’ Association support school boards

Ontario Premier Doug Ford points on a COVID-19 caseload projection model graph during a press conference at Queen's Park, in Toronto, Friday, April 16, 2021. Ontario was set to backtrack on controversial new police powers to enforce stay-at-home orders implemented in the battle against COVID-19.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ford backtracks on new police COVID-19 powers amid intense backlash

TORONTO — Furious criticism of new anti-pandemic powers that allow police in… Continue reading

The official program for the National Commemorative Ceremony in honour of Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, sits on an empty pew prior to the ceremony at Christ Church Cathedral in Ottawa on Saturday, April 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Prince Philip remembered as ‘a man of great service’ during Canada’s memorial service

Canada’s commemorative ceremony in honour of the late Prince Philip offered a… Continue reading

CF Montreal head coach Wilfried Nancy speaks to his players during the team's practice Tuesday, March 16, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
CF Montreal puts on a show, defeating Toronto FC 4-2 in MLS season opener

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — CF Montreal, carving open Toronto FC’s defence, cruised… Continue reading

Demonstrators using umbrellas as shields approach a point in a perimeter security fence during a protest over the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright during traffic stop, outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department, Friday, April 16, 2021, in Brooklyn Center, Minn. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Journalists allege police harassment at Minnesota protests

Some journalists covering protests over the police fatal shooting of Daunte Wright,… Continue reading

A container ship is docked in the Port of Montreal, Wednesday, February 17, 2021 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Montreal dockworkers begin weekend strikes as talks drag on

MONTREAL — Dockworkers at the Port of Montreal kicked off a series… Continue reading

Brad Dahr, 53, is facing numerous charges. (Photo contributed by Alberta RCMP)
Alberta man charged for alleged sexual offences against children

An Edmonton man has been charged for alleged sexual offences against children… Continue reading

A person walks past a COVID-19 mural designed by artist Emily May Rose on a rainy day during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Monday, April 12, 2021. Employment lawyers say flouting COVID-19 public health orders when off the job or coming into work while knowingly sick could warrant discipline in the workplace. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Risky pandemic behaviour off the clock could mean workplace discipline: lawyers

CALGARY — Employment lawyers say flouting COVID-19 public health orders when off… Continue reading

Vials containing Russia's Sputnik V vaccine for COVID-19 are seen at the San Marino State Hospital, in San Marino, Friday, April 9, 2021.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Antonio Calanni
China, Russia using their COVID-19 vaccines to gain political influence

OTTAWA — China and Russia have been using their locally produced COVID-19… Continue reading

Most Read