TOKYO – It has been six months since she was strangely dismissed as the secretary general of the International Ski Federation (FIS). Sarah Lewis said that her life has moved on and she is “better equipped.”
She is ready and confident as she announced her candidacy for president of FIS, with which she had worked 27 years — 20 of them as the secretary general.
“I believe I am the right person because of my knowledge, my skills, my capacity,” she told Xinhua. “The way I will bring everyone together. We can achieve more together.”
Lewis, who grew up in north London, said she still could not figure out the reason behind her sudden departure.
“There is no specific explanation I can give you because I wasn’t given any concrete reasons,” she said. “The decision is a political one.”
FIS announced her departure after a council meeting on October 9. She had been expected to run for FIS president when Gian-Franco Kasper steps down after 22 years at the next FIS Congress, which was originally scheduled to take place last year but has been postponed until June 4, 2021 due to COVID-19.
“I wasn’t allowed to attend the meeting. I wasn’t told beforehand. I wasn’t given any warnings or any information. Immediately after the meeting, the president took me to his office. Two members of the staff there, he read me a letter. It took two minutes and he said, ‘Please, you leave the premises.'”
Lewis had been focused on the challenges to prepare for the pandemic season, trying everything to make the World Cup and world championships happen.
“My head was there,” she said. “Then suddenly this happened. I was blindsided. We got a lawyer to find what happened and what was the reason. But there are no allegations and explanations. This is clearly politics.”
But she said that there should be no personal hatred behind that because she had “no problem with anyone who made the decision.”
“I have regular contacts with all the council members, we have phone calls and we don’t have any grudges.”
She admitted that her work attitude and management style might have some negative influence on the people around her.
“I am really living, eating and sleeping my work. For some people this is overpowering. If they feel intimidated and they don’t work the same intensity as me, I wasn’t tolerating those people. Not everybody liked me because I was so tough.”
After leaving FIS, the 56-year-old went back to school to undertake the IMD Business School Inspirational Leadership program and spent “six fantastic months.”
“This gives me a lot of courage and a clear vision,” she said. “Now I am even more equipped for the challenges of serving as president, including providing leadership, support and direction to the professional FIS management team, and be permanently at their disposal.”
Lewis had been a member of the Beijing 2022 Coordination Commission since Beijing won the bid for the Winter Olympics. She has witnessed most of the process of Beijing’s preparation for the Games, which will open in just nine months.
“We can talk about this for half an hour,” she said. “Everything impressed me. Everything. This is the most meticulously perfect planning.
“The legacy is already happening and in place not only from the perspective of the future with successful winter sports events but most importantly, this connects to winter sports tourism. This is the true legacy. There is a true big sports industry behind it.”
With the facilities all over China, Lewis said winter sports will “take off.”
She pledged that should she be elected she will bring those countries and regions without snow or mountains closer to FIS.
“As the organization, you need to represent all the members,” she said, adding that she herself practiced skiing on London’s dry slopes en route to representing Britain at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary.
“We must grow globally,” she said. “We need to expand the coverage and the interests, and we can do that. But you need to have persons who are working with you to do that.”