Jumpers take center stage
April 24, 2009
This week, the top women ski jumpers in the world embarked on their toughest battle yet. But this time it wasn’t on any jump on a mountainside far away. Instead, the women, including Parkites Lindsey Van and Jessica Jerome, are just a day’s drive away in Vancouver put up the fight of their lives for a last-minute inclusion into the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.
In a landmark case, the girls are facing off with the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) in a Supreme Court battle, arguing that their exclusion from the Games violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms the Canadian Constitution which clearly upholds gender equity.
Women’s ski jumping remains the only winter Olympic sport that has a men’s competition without one for women. For years, the women have fought for inclusion, finally receiving the rebuke in 2006 when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) ruled that the sport wasn’t developed enough to be included in the Vancouver Games. Since then, Van has gone on become the world champion in the sport and women from 14 countries are competing at the top level of the sport — much bigger number than skicross, which was accepted into the Games in 2006.
When VANOC followed the IOC’s decision, the women saw a direct violation of constitutional law and waged their judicial fight.
The week consisted of two days of arguments from the jumpers’ side, followed by two days of defense from VANOC, and an opportunity for both sides to summarize before the judge’s ruling. Both sides included legal arguments only. No witnesses were called, but sworn affidavits in the testimony were used. British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Lauri Ann Fenlon is deciding the case
Speaking from her accommodations in Vancouver on Wednesday, Deedee Corradini, president of Women’s Ski Jumping USA and mayor of Salt Lake City before the 2002 Games, who has been at the forefront of this fight, was very optimistic.
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"We’re very encouraged and feeling very positive," Corradini said after the jumpers had argued their side of the case. "After hearing our arguments with all of the back up and documentation, I feel we have a very good case. I think we are going to win this."
The jumpers’ lawyer, Ross Clark, used a wide arsenal of weapons, including a video of the girls jumping at the World Championships in Liberec, Slovenia, in February and testimony from a number of the women who had had first-hand accounts of blatant gender discrimination.
Corradini said that the first day of testimony was devoted to citing previous cases, followed by a day of describing the women’s fight.
VANOC’s defense is that the IOC made the decision to leave the girls out, which is out of the Canadian Charter’s jurisdiction, and VANOC is simply following the mandates it has been given.
But Clark found more than170 documents filed with the government concerning the Games that say that VANOC is a government entity, Corradini said.
"That’s what we have to prove," Corradini said. "We think we have the documentation to show they are a quasi-government entity."
VANOC also has argued that there is no discrimination since the IOC made its decision to leave the girls out because it said the sport was not yet developed enough.
As the battle unfolded in the courtroom, many of the Canadian and American jumpers were front and center in the courtroom, Corradini said. When they are not attending the trial, the women and their representatives have been in the middle of a media frenzy. Among those covering the event are National Public Radio, The New York Times, Associated Press, the British Broadcasting Company and the Globe and Mail in Canada. The decision was expected before the weekend.