Editorial: Women ski jumpers earn a place in history
February 12, 2014
Lindsey Van, Sarah Hendrickson and Jessica Jerome may not have earned medals of their own in Sochi, but their decade-long crusade to establish women’s ski jumping as an Olympic sport has played a big role in making it possible for others to stand on that podium.
While it would have been wonderful to see one or all of them in the winner’s circle, the athletes and those who supported them deserve recognition for having won a much larger battle establishing a level playing field regardless of gender.
Tuesday’s historic competition has special meaning for Park City residents who have watched a young squad of daring flyers grow up at the Utah Olympic Park. One of the earliest jumpers to set her sights on the Olympics was Park City resident Lindsey Van, whose parents watched among friends at a Kimball Junction restaurant as their daughter’s long-held dream come true.
Van raised the bar for women ski jumpers all over the world, but her quest to become an Olympian was repeatedly thwarted by an Olympic hierarchy that claimed the sport was too dangerous for women. In 2010, at the height of her career, Van was forced to sit on the sidelines during the Vancouver Olympic Winter Games, even though she had set a hill record there.
But she didn’t quit. Instead, in addition to training and competing, Van and a growing list of supporters continued to lobby the IOC for inclusion. They succeeded just in time to compete in Sochi.
Yes, it would have been sweet to see an American woman earn a medal at the sport’s Olympic debut, but to see them fly over the rings and then to congratulate their German, Austrian, French and Japanese colleagues, was also an important moment.
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In the long run, their perseverance and dedication transcends ski jumping and sets an example for women and for everyone who may be excluded from pursuing their dreams.
The athletes of Women’s Ski Jumping USA may not have a medal to wear, but they will be remembered for taking the Olympics to new heights in Sochi.