The mayor of the movement
There is snow in Lebanon and there was limited skiing when Deedee Corradini spent more than a decade of her youth in the Middle East. But she never got to ski jump as a youngster – swimming and horses were her two loves.
It was a different kind of jumping for the future (1992-2000) mayor of Salt Lake City who is a senior VP with Prudential Utah Real Estate…and who also is one of the engines driving the women’s ski jumping movement. Nope, the daughter of an educator who was the last American president of Aleppo College in Syria, there no ski jumping – but she rode horses, including jumpers.
"We moved to Beirut when I was 3 and lived in Lebanon for seven years, and four years in Aleppo, Syria. I used to ride Arabian horses through the desert of Aleppo…and was a competitive swimmer – my jumping was jumping into the pool, and I used to teach horseback riding and jumping, but I didn’t compete," she explained with a smile at Utah Olympic Park as she watched the U.S. women prepping for this weekend’s VISA Women’s Ski Jumping Festival.
Events on the 100-meter hill, a.k.a., the normal hill, were scheduled for Friday night and again tonight; gates open at 4:30 p.m. with jumping 6-8 p.m., and free admission. Complete competition results will be in Wednesday’s Record.
Corradini took over last year from founding chief Peter Jerome as president of Women’s Ski Jumping USA. She led the four-member delegation of Yanks to the International Ski Federation convention in late May in Vilamoura, Portugal, where the women were okayed for inclusion in the 2009 Nordic World Championships in the Czech Republic. Next up is gaining approval from the 2010 Vancouver Olympic organizers and then the International Olympic Committee.
Not only are the ladies looking to secure an Olympic thumbs-up but, Corradini said, the organization is hoping to become a driving force for other nations looking to get their women’s jumping program (ahem) off the ground.
The kernel of the idea developed in Vilamoura, she said, as nations – skeptical at the start of the convention week – became believers and supporters of women’s jumping.
WSJ USA is the self-funding organization behind the women flyers. It’s raised more than $50,000 over each of the last couple of years and now that the elite U.S. women clearly are barreling ahead among their sport’s top skiers, with two of the top three jumpers worldwide, five of the top 15, and five women about to be named to the U.S. Ski Team as the first women’s jumping squad, she’s expanding the WSJ USA reach into development ranks – here and in other nations, if possible.
"We’re figured out a model that certainly works for us – how we’ve gotten together, gotten professionals involved, been able to raise money…so, why reinvent the wheel? If we can help other countries, who can learn from us, how to get organized, how to help these women, we’re happy to help.
"My hope would be – because we’re all in this together, all the women athletes of the world are in this together – we want to help every other country as well," she said.
"I’d love to see other parents and other organizations develop in other countries so we can really move this sport forward. In Europe, ski jumping is a big deal but in the rest of the world it’s not, so that’s another goal, to enhance the image of this sport worldwide."
midweek in Portugal, she said, the U.S. women’s troupe was dubbed "The Mighty Lobby" in tribute to its persistence in presenting its case. "In the process," Corradini said, "we developed many friendships, including the Australians and New Zealanders, and we kept saying to them, ‘You don’t need snow – get a jump built in Australia and get going with a ski jumping team’…and you could see a light bulb go off in their heads…"
"It just seems to me there are a lot of countries who don’t participate in the Winter Olympic Games, and this cud give them a way to participate. My hope is we could spread the word to other countries that don’t have snow; many places could do this."
One key element, she said, is a sharing approach where nations with jumps share their facilities – the details would have to be worked out, of course, but with Australian aerialists training in this country and the Canadian aerialists training so many years in Lake Placid, facilities-sharing isn’t a new concept.
The progress in gaining FIS approval for women’s jumping was a storied alliance among the Canadians, Norwegians and the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. WSJ USA and USSA leadership conferred on strategy before heading to Portugal; USSA also critiqued a proposed brochure, which led to a gold-medal brochure including photos quotes from women jumpers around the world, not just Yanks, not just North Americans or Norwegians.
"It’s been a team effort all the way. We communicate all the time with Canada and Norway. Really, we all know we’re all in this together," she continued.
"USSA was wonderful and fully supportive in Portugal. We teamed up to make this happen. It was a good partnership," according to Corradini.
And as the elite women focus on this weekend and then next week in Calgary before heading to four events in Europe, Corradini and her tireless band of volunteers are starting to focus more on the development level of women jumpers. Having five women about to be officially named to the U.S. Ski Team means that frees funding for the development push.
"Without the development skiers, there’s no future. We must put more effort there," she said. "This is an exceptional group of young women at the elite level, and we want to spread the sport and give more young women the opportunity to succeed."
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