Women ski jumpers back in court | ParkRecord.com

Women ski jumpers back in court

by Alisha Self, of The Record staff

Deedee Corradini, president of Women’s Ski Jumping-USA, and Park City ski jumpers Lindsey Van and Jessica Jerome will appear in the British Columbia Court of Appeal Thursday for a hearing concerning the appeal of the ruling in the women’s lawsuit against the Vancouver Olympic Games Organizing Committee (VANOC).

The local women will join several female ski jumpers from Canada, representing the 14 athletes named as appellants in the suit. Lawyers from each side will present their argument to a three-judge panel during the hearing, which is expected to continue through Friday afternoon.

Corradini said on Monday that the athletes’ lawyers are "cautiously optimistic" that the panel will rule in favor of the women.

At issue is whether the women athletes will be allowed to compete in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, which begin Feb. 12. Ski jumping is currently the only Olympic sport that does not have both men’s and women’s events.

The dispute began three years ago, when, despite the International Ski Federation’s (FIS) decision to include the sport in the Nordic World Championships, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted not to add women’s ski jumping to the 2010 Olympic program.

In May 2008, 15 elite women ski jumpers filed a gender-discrimination suit against VANOC, seeking a declaration that would either order VANOC to hold women’s ski jumping in 2010 or cancel ski-jumping events in Vancouver altogether.

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The athletes’ case is based on the argument that VANOC must host the Games in accordance with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which prohibits gender discrimination.

The case was heard in April 2009 by Justice Lauri Ann Fenlon of the British Columbia Supreme Court. Fenlon’s decision acknowledged the gender discrimination and VANOC’s subjection to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but did not go the extra step and order VANOC to go to the IOC and refuse to hold a men’s event without establishing an event for women.

Corradini and the female athletes felt that judge did not respond to what they asked for. "Basically, the judge said, VANOC is subject to the charter, but the IOC is not, so there’s nothing I can do," Corradini explained. "We never asked for that."

Fourteen of the 15 original plaintiffs filed an appeal to the British Columbia Court of Appeals on July 21, 2009.

The women’s lawyers will present their case on Thursday, the first day of the appeal hearing, and VANOC’s lawyers will present on Friday. Corradini says there is a possibility that the panel may render a decision immediately following the conclusion of the hearing on Friday. Otherwise, the decision may take up to three weeks.