IOC slams door on women jumpers |

IOC slams door on women jumpers

by Ronda Thomas Farrell and Adia Waldburger

KUWAIT CITY – The Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) met Tuesday in Kuwait City and voted to continue to exclude women from ski jumping for the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games. As a discipline within the sport of Nordic Skiing the exclusion of women’s ski jumping is not subject to review by the full IOC.

The Executive Board ruled contrary to the findings of the International Ski Federation (FIS) and found that women’s ski jumping was not sufficiently developed in the number of athletes or participating nations to warrant inclusion in the Olympic Games. Ottavio Cinquanta, IOC Board member from Italy, said the board agreed there were not enough women.

"They are not representative of the sport. We are not saying it will never happen. We are saying not now."

A cold comfort to women who have been training since they were six.

During the same session, the IOC voted to deny the addition of an alpine team event, a singles curling event, and a team event in bobsled, and voted in favor of adding the discipline of ski cross for men and women for 2010. Ski cross is a freestyle discipline similar to snowboard cross where multiple skiers race together over manmade bumps, curves, ridges and natural terrain.

All events added to the Olympic Program must provide competition for men and women according to a 1991 amendment to the Olympic Charter. This loophole has grandfathered in the discrimination against women ski jumpers and continues to allow the IOC to add less developed sports. For example, although only 35 women from 15 nations competed in the FIS-sanctioned ski cross events last season, yet the sport was deemed sufficiently "developed" to warrant inclusion in the Olympics for 2010. The numbers for bobsled and skeleton were similarly small when they were added for the 2002 Salt Lake Olympic Winter Games. In comparison, over 160 women from 16 nations are registered with the FIS as eligible to compete in women’s ski jumping for the 2006-2007 Continental Cup events.

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The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association had recently named five women to the team, including Lindsay Van, Jessica Jerome, Alyssa Johnson, Abby Hughes, and Brenna Ellis, all of Park City.

The women jumpers and members Women’s Ski Jumping USA, a non-profit organization specifically formed to help advance the sport, gathered at the Jerome’s home after the announcement was made. The jumpers were devastated.

"I’m totally astonished by it & that women are still not included in sports," said Van.

This is the third time Van has waited for a decision about the inclusion of her sport and it has taken a toll.

"I’m really upset. This time, I thought that there was a hint of a possibility," Van said.

Van says that she plans to finish out the season with the other jumpers, but may then try to pursue a different sport with better gender equity. She even suggested learning ski cross, since it is now an Olympic sport.

"This sport has let me down too many times," Van lamented.

The decision also raises legal issues for the Vancouver Organizing Committee regarding gender equity as pointed out in a letter from the Canadian women’s jumping athletes to John Furlong, Chief Executive Officer of VANOC.

"How can the federal and provincial governments fund construction of a multi-million dollar facility that puts up a ‘No Women Allowed’ sign? Surely such discrimination is contrary to our rights enshrined with the Charter, and to both the federal and provincial Human Rights Acts," writes Furlong.

VANOC and the Canadian Olympic Committee submitted letters to Jacque Rogge, President of the IOC, last week requesting that the Executive Board support the FIS recommendation and include women’s ski jumping in the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games.

Deedee Corradini, president of Women’s Ski Jumping USA said that they were already discussing possible recourse in light of the decision, including plans to support Canada if they plan to seek any legal action over the gender question. They also considered finding a national platform, like an appearance on the Oprah show, to let the world know about the outcome.

"Nothing that happened at this meeting was supposed to happen," Corradini said.

Yet, some reports suggested that many of the IOC board members never intended on voting for the inclusion of the women.

"We have a lot of support, but it’s the people that don’t support us with the power," Van said.

Although this is technically the last chance for the female jumpers, Corradini spoke of the upcoming meeting of the entire board of the IOC, where they might try and make one last plea.

"We’ll see," Corradini said.