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Women ski jumpers and the Olympics

By Elliott Almond
Monday, February 15th, 2010 at 11:53 am in Uncategorized.

WEST VANCOUVER, British Columbia –Of all the events being contested at the 2010 Winter Olympics, one you won’t see is women’s ski jumping.

The women have asked and asked and had the door slammed in their faces for years. The basic reason for rejection is this: the sport isn’t competitive enough yet to be considered worthy of the Olympics.

And women’s hockey — as much as I enjoy it — is?

Two recent scores from the Vancouver Games: Canada 18, Slovakia ; United States 12, China 1. Basically, women’s hockey has four good teams — Canada, United States, Sweden and Finland. And when all is said and done, the gold medal at the Olympics and world championships comes down to Canada and the Americans. So much for spreading the sport to the world after three Olympics.

Women jumpers have petitioned to become part of every Winter Olympics since Nagano in 1998, but have been rejected by the International Olympic Committee — the same group that claims to foster gender equity. In the past couple years Canadian women have forced the issue, taking their complaint as far as they could legally without getting a positive decision.

Ski jumping and the Nordic combined, which is a mix of cross-country skiing and ski jumping, are the only Olympic winter sports that are male only. The IOC reasons the sport is too young, lacking a history of world championships and athletes participating from many countries.

This bothers the male Olympians, too.

“It’s kind of a bull issue they can’t jump where they are accepted in almost all other sports,” said Alpine skier Andrew Weibrecht of Lake Placid. “Lindsey Van and I went to high school and I feel bad for her not to get the opportunities.”

Van, a world champion, was part of the suit to try to get the sport accepted at the Vancouver Games.

The IOC should consider some simple math to promote women’s sports. It’s far easier to groom one competitive ski jumper than an entire hockey team. Given the chance, women’s ski jumping would quickly live up to Olympic standards.

It seemed PC Canada would have been the perfect place to introduce the women jumpers into the Olympic family. It’s a lost opportunity. Perhaps it will change in Sochi, Russia in four years.

But when it comes to the power elite of the IOC, you can’t count on members doing what is right.

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