GB’s Sarah Lewis Aims to be First Female President of International Ski Federation

The former GB ski racer who was unceremoniously sacked as secretary General of FIS now wants to be elected to the top job. She has put her name forward as a candidate in the June election.

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“I have devoted myself to our sport as an Olympian, to FIS and our community, and to the Olympic Movement as a participant, manager and a leader.

“I am now making this journey for one reason – to work together to build a FIS that is fully representative of the global ski and snow sport community, and fully equipped to take us well into the second centennial of FIS, with a crystal clear plan, transparency and accountability.

“Together I believe we can achieve much more.”

So said 56-year-old Sarah Lewis as she launched her bid for the top job.

She has a tough battle ahead with some in the organisation hoping she would not be returning.

Lewis began working for the FIS in 1994 as a Continental Cups coordinator and took on the role of secretary general in 2000 before her unceremonious exit last October.

FIS initially stated the decision was “based on a complete loss of confidence” – this remark was later withdrawn.

She was replaced by former Global Association of International Sports Federations director Philippe Gueisbuhler in December.

Her ousting as Secretary General was a surprise, but politics at the highest level of sport can be brutal.

PlanetSKI understands she was shocked and disappointed at her removal from the job she had done for two decades and the organisation she had devoted her life to.

She has been spending time considering her options and was flattered by the number of people offering her support and sympathy after her dismissal.

She admitted that she had taken her eye of the political ball while dealing with the detail of trying to organise a season of snowsports competition with the Covid-19 pandemic surging.

She is known for her attention to detail, but she missed the detail of a conspiracy against her.

Sarah Lewis

Sarah Lewis

Her rivals for the top job at FIS are all men.

There are two Swedish candidates  – the Swedish Olympic Committee president Mats Arjes who is also a FIS vice-President and Johan Eliasch who is the billionaire boss of HEAD.

The other candidate is the Swiss Ski Federation president and former downhill world champion, Urs Lehmann.

Mats Arjes is understood to be the preferred choice of Gian-Franco Kasper, the outgoing FIS President who has been in the job for 23 years.

One of Sarah Lewis’s manifesto pledge is to limit the term of office.

She said it was time “to assess the appropriateness for term limits of the FIS President and FIS Council Members with a view to introducing a limit of three election terms.”

Sarah Lewis

Sarah Lewis talks to Dave Ryding at Chamonix World Cup, February 2020. Image © PlanetSKI

The next president will be only the fifth in the 97-year history of the federation.

The current President, Gian-Franco Kasper, has been in the post for 23 years.

Gian-Franco Kasper Photo credit – FIS

She added she would also renounce a presidential salary “to enable extra resources to be redirected into supporting other areas of the organisation.”

She is a former alpine ski racer and competed for GB at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics.

So, what else would she bring to the role?

See here for her full manifesto pledges.

She is stressing the important of gender equality.

“We stand out among international federations currently with an all-male Council, excepting one of the Athletes Commission representatives being female,” Sarah Lewis said in her manifesto.

The FIS council has 18 men on it, including Mats Arjes, and 1 woman.

“Advancing diversity proactive measures within the FIS leadership structures is vital for our future.”

She has been nominated by the Royal Belgian Ski Federation.

GB Snowsport has already put its weight behind Johan Eliasch and nominated him well before she was fired.

It was noted by observers that GB Snowsport had chosen not to back one of its own ahead of the approaching election for President.

Her candidacy has thrown the race open.

She says her sacking is in the past and should stay there.

“I don’t have any issue whatsoever with anyone who was involved in that decision,” she claimed.

“There are no grudges.”

GB's Sarah Lewis Goes for Top Job at FIS

GB’s Sarah Lewis Goes for Top Job at FIS

Since departing FIS she has completed a business leadership course.

Her work ethic and attention to detail is shown by the fact she has written letters in the past week in 25 different languages to target voters according to reports

Lewis has vowed to implement a COVID-19 recovery fund for National Associations.

Sarah Lewis has lived in Switzerland for more than 20 years.

“We are entering a new era for FIS and global sport – an era that requires FIS to tackle its role in a changed, more inclusive and demanding society, and an era that FIS must embrace for growth, a healthy future for our sport, with our athletes at the centre,” she added.

“We have been presented with a unique opportunity – to elect a 21st century president, whose full focus is to work hand-in-hand with the National Associations and stakeholders, leading FIS on a strategic transformation from a stable governing body to become a global movement for world skiing and snowboarding.”

Kasper’s final term as FIS President was due to end in June 2020 but he was granted an extension after the FIS postponed its Congress to 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The election is now set to take place remotely on June 4th 2021  after the FIS decided to hold its Congress virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The succession battle is well underway and it is likely to be a tightly fought contest.

FIS, the International Ski Federation, Photo credit – FIS

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