FIS approves World Cup for women’s jumpers
June 8, 2010
One small step by the International Ski Federation (FIS) could mean one giant leap for elite women’s ski jumpers.
At the FIS Congress in Antalya, Turkey, last week, voting members unanimously agreed to sanction a women’s ski-jumping World Cup circuit for the 2011-12 season – elevating those athletes to the world’s biggest stage and boosting an ever-stronger bid for inclusion in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
It is a landmark decision for women jumpers, who have strived to gain Olympic status for more than a decade. A lawsuit from the sport’s top competitors drew international interest in the buildup to the Vancouver Games, and one Canadian Supreme Court justice agreed that the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) stance against the event appeared discriminatory. Ski jumping is the only Olympic discipline – summer or winter – that only involves males (besides nordic combined, which features ski jumping). Still, the Canadian government could not claim jurisdiction over the IOC, and the suit and subsequent appeal were tossed out.
"One of the things the IOC has told us is, ‘You haven’t even been able to have a World Cup yet,’" said Deedee Corradini, president of U.S. Ski Jumping-USA. Now the IOC will be hard-pressed to exclude the women on a similar basis when they again consider the addition to the Olympics this year (likely in November).
"The pressure we’ve put on the IOC on this issue has made a major difference," Corradini said. "To have the Canadian court and court of appeals say there was discrimination between genders – that had quite an impact. It made them look bad."
Some jumpers retaliated to their loss with harsh words, while a Canadian IOC member made thinly veiled threats never to reconsider a sport that had so defamed the IOC’s global image. But the recent moves by the FIS seem to suggest that there will be still more momentum behind the 2014 bid.
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"My hope and cautious prediction is that this is leading to the inclusion of women’s ski jumping in 2014," Corradini said.
Since its inception in 2004-05, women’s jumpers were limited to a Continental Cup tour – generally considered a minor or development league for other snow sports. Starting in 2011, their events will have the same cachet of those of their male counterparts.
"We definitely needed a different level of competition," reigning world champion and Park City resident Lindsey Van said. "There’s a big group of athletes (on the Continental Cup); to start out internationally at that level is very hard."
Women will also be invited for the second time to this year’s FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Oslo, Norway, at the end of February, giving the sport another chance to showcase its merits and Van a chance to defend the 2009 crown she earned in last year’s inaugural event at Liberec, Czech Republic.
Although the FIS again sent a proposal to the IOC for inclusion of ski jumping in the Olympics (it did the same before Vancouver, approving that proposal 114-1), the progress would be incremental. Men have three jumping events in the Olympics – the large-hill, normal-hill and team events – and the IOC will only consider a 90-meter normal-hill jump for the women in 2014. Both the FIS and IOC have previously stated that the injury risk is too high for women to soar off the 120-meter large hill jump.
The FIS did, however, add a team event to the Junior World Ski Championships in 2010-11, giving a strong U.S. team hope for future IOC and FIS consideration.
"For the U.S., (the team event) is very important," Corradini said, noting that the American women are ranked No. 2 in the world. "We think we can win that."
A chance at reaching the Olympic podium is of utmost importance to the cash-strapped U.S. women’s team, which saw its funding dropped by the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) after failing to crack the Vancouver lineup.
Corradini says the team is almost completely broke, and has even had to postpone paying head coach Kjell Magnusson. She said a June 14 fundraiser at Deer Valley Resort is absolutely critical to the organization’s immediate survival (most of the standout U.S. women live and train in Park City).
"We’re in dire straits right now," Corradini said. Although USSA recently announced its intention to fund medal-potential athletes leading up to the 2014 Games – and that might likely pay dividends for a select few women’s jumpers – the rest of the team will still find itself on life support without a momentous increase in fundraising. Adding to those concerns is the news of the World Cup tour, which will demand even more expenses for travel, training and hosting events.
"There’s no question that our U.S. women are medal contenders," Corradini said of USSA’s pledge to support podium threats. "But it sounds as though they’re leaning toward funding individual athletes, not the team."
Halfpipe skiing has also been endorsed for IOC for consideration by FIS, and momentum for slopestyle snowboarding, team snowboardcross (both were added to the FIS Alpine World Championships) and an alpine team event could push women’s ski jumping to the back burner, given the strong grassroots support for those add-ons. Still Corradini believes the women’s case is a different animal.
"We’re not asking for a new event," Corradini said. "We’re asking for the other half of what’s been an event since 1924."
The U.S. Women’s Ski Jumping Team will hold its second fundraiser July 14 at the Ski Magazine Dream Home in the Deer Crest community at Deer Valley Resort. The "Join the Journey Benefit" begins at 6 p.m. and lasts until 10 p.m. Vancouver 2010 Olympians and past Olympians will join the women’s team for entertainment, gourmet food, drinks and a silent and live auction. Cost is $200, and tickets can be purchased at http://www.wsjusa.com.