Female ski jumps get FIS nod for 2009 Worlds
Women’s ski jumping took a monstrous step forward toward the Olympics Friday as the International Ski Federation (FIS) approved including it in the 2009 nordic World Championships in Liberec, Czech Republic. That’s the first step in formal approval for inclusion in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
"This is a victory for women around the world, not just our athletes," said Dee Dee Corradini, president of Women’s Ski Jumping USA, headed a four-member women’s jumping delegation to the FIS Congress (convention) in Vilamoura, Portugal. "We couldn’t be happier. We’re all smiles.
"This is huge. We’re so excited because we’ve all worked 18-hour days, but it’s all paid off. It was a real team effort; we worked closely with Canada and Norway and the USSA [Park City-based U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association], and wound up pulling in support from other nations," she said. "The victory in the FIS Council was tremendous."
Peter Jerome, organization president for two years before handing off to Corradini last year, added, "Gian Franco [Kasper – FIS president] said he had ‘a very delicate subject’ he wanted to discuss with the Congress and then he was pretty explicit about the number of [national] teams competing and he was supporting putting it on the program for the 2010 Olympics."
At the FIS meeting, delegates are given green (yea!) and red (nay!) cards to display for a vote on various issues.
"He asked if anybody had any comments. He said, ‘Let’s have a vote’ and all the green cards went up except for the Swiss," according to Jerome. "It was great."
USSA President and CEO Bill Marolt, who has led federation support of women’s jumping on the international stage, was equally pleased and called it "a major milestone" for FIS.
"There was a great team effort including our USSA delegates, Women’s Ski Jumping USA and an allied effort of key nations to bring women into the World Championships beginning in 2009," Marolt said.
But, he also cautioned there still is work to do before the women get to jump in Vancouver and, despite the apparent momentum, nothing can be taken for granted. Parkites Lindsey Van and Jessica Jerome, two of the top five jumpers in their sport, were the first U.S. ladies to serves as Olympic forejumpers when they took part in the ’02 Olympics, but competing will be a completely new galaxy, if it comes to pass.
"All our dreams came true," said Alissa Johnson, one of the nation’s top women jumpers. "It’s like a big weight is off our shoulders, getting past this first big step."
The vote formalized approval earlier in the week in a dramatic scene before the powerful 16-member FIS Council, which includes Marolt as one of four vice presidents. Canada and Norway had proposed including women’s jumping in the 2001 World Championships but the FIS Ski Jumping Committee proposed approval of women’s jumping as a new sport – but at the 2011 Worlds.
That would have torpedoed efforts to get women’s jumping onto the schedule for Vancouver. International Olympic Committee rules require a sport to have been involved in a World Championships before moving to the Olympics; women’s jumping has been an exhibition event at the 1995 and ’99 World Championships and was included in the 2006 World Junior Championships.
But Slovenian Janez Kocijancic reportedly stood up to oppose the committee recommendation and recommend accelerating the timetable so the women could compete in Liberec and then join the Olympic movement in Vancouver. A compromise was worked out – the women’s normal hill (i.e., individual) event would be included in the ’09 Worlds and a team event would be added for ’11 in Oslo.
Now, the two parties – FIS and Liberec organizers – have to work out arrangements to add women’s jumping and another event, the nordic combined mass start, which also was approved, to the ’09 schedule. But with the Congress overwhelmingly approving the two measures, it shouldn’t be a big problem to accomplish.
After that, it’s on to Vancouver for VANOC, the Vancouver Olympic organizers, to accept women’s jumping as one of the new events it wants to add. The International Olympic Committee is the final step and although that’s usually pro forma – if the organizers put forth a new event(s), there’s seldom any IOC opposition.
"This is tremendous," said Ron Read, who has been point man from Ski Jumping Canada in putting forth women’s jumping. "We knew it was coming once we got the Council approval. It’s almost one of those times you pray for silence [i.e., no verbal opposition from the entire Congress]…and then there was a very strong show of cards.
"We’ve been arm’s length so far with VANOC because they’ve said they didn’t want to interfere with the international federation," he added. "I’ve been working with the Canadian Olympic Committee, which has seats on VANOC, of course, and they’ve assured me it won’t be an issue. And then we’ve got to clear the IOC hurdle, but we’re hoping that won’t be an issue.
"The IOC has said its No. 1 priority is women’s sports and we’re not anticipating the IOC to change that priority," Read said.
Reaction in Park City was as joyous as you might expect. The women jumpers gathered at the Jerome home (Jerome Dome?) and there was jubilation when Vic Method, WSJ USA marketing chief, called about 4 a.m. to relay word of the thumbs-up from FIS.
"It was definitely crazy. It was great relief," Van said. "This was the hard part. We’re definitely moving in the right direction…definitely looking forward."
The vote coincided with the first day of summer jumping for the women at Utah Olympic Park. Casey Colby, the 1998 Olympian and National Sports Foundation coach who has been the U.S. women’s coach for the last couple of seasons, said the athletes wanted to jump even though they had little or no sleep during the night because of the FIS-watch.
"The girls called me after they heard from Vic. They’d been up all night waiting. There wasn’t any crying so I knew it was good news. It was pretty happy," he said.
By mid-morning, Jerome was sleeping on Colby’s couch in the NSF office while the others jumped. "I wasn’t going to miss it. It’s great but I wasn’t even thinking about Vancouver when I was jumping," Van said.
"I had about an hour of sleep but I’m doing great. I just jumped a full session and feel better than ever," Johnson added. A little extra adrenalin, perhaps? "Oh, I don’t know – it really hadn’t sunk in yet…
"But it’s good to be back jumping. It’s a perfect day."
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