Women ski jumpers awaiting fate
November 13, 2009
Park City ski jumpers Lindsey Van and Jessica Jerome and Women’s Ski Jumping-USA president Deedee Corradini were on the edge of their courtroom seats Thursday and Friday as they listened to a debate over whether women should be allowed to compete in the 2010 Winter Olympics.
The British Columbia Court of Appeal could reverse the previous ruling and mandate the addition of a women’s event during the Games.
In April, British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Lauri Ann Fenlon ruled that, although the Vancouver Olympic Games Organizing Committee (VANOC) is subject to Canadian anti-discrimination statutes, the International Olympic Committee is not and therefore the court cannot order the IOC to institute a women’s event.
The athletes, who filed a lawsuit against VANOC in May 2008, are appealing the judge’s decision and asking for a declaration that if VANOC cannot host a women’s event, it cannot host a men’s event, either.
The appeal began Thursday with a three-judge panel hearing arguments from lawyers representing the women as well as those representing VANOC.
"It’s really intense. The judges are asking both sides very poignant questions," said Van after Thursday’s court session. "I definitely felt we had the much stronger argument and better evidence than they had, but you never know what the judges are thinking,"
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Van said that the judges seem very knowledgeable about the case and Fenlon’s decision. "It’s good to see people understanding it and asking these questions and getting down to the root of all of it," she said. "It’s very interesting for me, but at the same time, it’s absolutely nerve-wracking sitting in there and having people decide your future."
Corradini echoed Van’s sentiments. She added that the athletes’ lawyers have been able to keep the judges focused on the issues they want to address. "The key for us is to narrow the focus of this appeal to the one thing we’re asking for, which is that VANOC – which [the court] has agreed is subject to the [Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms] – cannot host a men’s-only event," she said.
The hearing was expected to end by Friday afternoon and Corradini said there was a chance that the judges could announce their decision immediately following its conclusion. If the judges do not make an immediate ruling, their decision may not be announced for a few weeks, she said.
"We’re all feeling good," she added. "The judges seem to be very sympathetic to our side. Of course, you never know what’s going to happen in the end."