Battling for Inclusion, Women Ski Jumpers Taking The 'Bunny' Hill In 2014 Olympics

Battling for Inclusion, Women Ski Jumpers Taking The 'Bunny' Hill In 2014 Olympics
Olympic ski jumper Lindsey Van. The sport makes its first appearance in Sochi after a protracted battle

With Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn struggling to overcome yet another injury to compete in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, perhaps it's Lindsey Van's turn to shine.

Never heard of her? Neither has the rest of the world. But the IOC sure knows her. She's a 29 year old Olympic ski jumper, who started at the age of eight, competing with boys in 1993.

Van is now the spokeswoman and face of women's Olympic ski jumping. Featured in the New York Times Magazine, she detailed a fight that's taken 11 years, three Olympics, and a discrimination lawsuit for women's ski jumping to become an Olympic sport.

Van said she believed women have been excluded from the top competitions in the sport for this reason:

“If women can jump as far as men, what does that do to the extreme value of this sport?” 

Olympic ski jumper Lindsey Van, to the New York Times

The U.S. women are going into the 2014 winter World Cup season as the number one-ranked team in the world for a second year in a row, led by 2013 World Champion Sarah Hendrickson and long-time pioneers of the sport, Lindsey Van and Jessica Jerome. All reside in Park City, Utah.

Like Vonn, Hendrickson is injured, but is taking it day-by-day, hoping to return before Sochi.

The Battle For Inclusion:

If a woman skier can do the moguls, it's my opinion that a little ski jumping can't hurt her. But numerous factions, including the International Olympic Committee, said no over and over again. The battle began in earnest in November 2006, when the proposal for a women's ski jumping event was rejected by the Executive Board of the IOC. The reason for the rejection cited the low number of athletes as well as few participating countries in the sport.

Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee stated that women's ski jumping would not be an Olympic event because "we do not want the medals to be diluted and watered down."

Uh-huh. Integrity, thy name is Jacques Rogge. Not.

By the time the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, 15 of the sport’s best jumpers filed a discrimination suit against the Vancouver Organizing Committee, led by Women’s Ski Jumping USA, a nonprofit group started in 2003 to support the team.

Against the wishes of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (U.S.S.A.), the national governing body of Olympic skiing, Van — who had just won the sport’s first World Championships — agreed to be the spokeswoman.

Yes, it seemed silly to me that the battle to include a women's ski jumping  in the Olympics would take so long. After all, the men had been ski jumping in the Olympics since 1924.

 As noted by NBC, women's participation in athletics continues to rise worldwide. Women, according to the NBC report, made up more than 44% of the 10,500 athletes at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, the highest percentage yet.

The IOC added plenty of other extreme sports — snowboard, free skiing and snowboard cross, just to name few, and women fared every bit as well as their male counterparts.n addition to women’s ski jumping, the committee also approved ski halfpipe, a team event in figure skating, a luge team relay and a mixed relay in biathlon.

As explained by the Sochi Olympics website, "the ladies will compete in ski jumping for the first time in the Olympic history. Ladies’ individual normal hill event was added to the Olympic ski jumping competitions in 2011. Four events make up the Olympic program: the men's and ladies’ individual normal hill competition, the men's individual large hill competition, and the men's team competition. Four sets of medals are awarded."

Size Matters

The individual normal hill is an event in which athletes jump from a HS 105 hill (HS = Hill Size). The longest distance reached is around 105 meters. Athletes make two jumps. Only the athletes with the best results in the first jump make the second jump. The athlete with the highest total score is declared the winner.

The individual large hill is an event in which athletes jump from a HS 140 hill (HS = Hill Size). Therefore, the length of the jump may be up to 140 meters or a little more. The competition is structured and winners selected the same way as in the normal hill event.

Women aren't going to be on a 140-meter "large" hill. Just the 105-meter hill. Which smacks to me of sexism, although none of the athletes, Van included, are commenting. Perhaps they are being made to feel "lucky to be here." So many times, that's happened. And it's wrong. With just 35 meters more, and more than 25 years of experience each among the team members, why would that equal a no-go from the Sochi Organizing Committee?

Coming up to the Olympics, the US women ski jumpers will have plenty of time to prove themselves. The Ski Jumping Wold Cup opens for women on Dec. 7 in Lillehammer, Norway. The Nordic Junior World Ski Championships will be held Jan. 27-Feb. 2 in Val di Fiemme, Italy, and the U.S. Olympic Trials are set for Dec. 29 in Park City. The official 2014 Olympic Ski Jumping Team will be announced Jan. 19.

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