GeneralNewsOlympicsUS Ski TeamNo US Ski Team for Women Jumpers in 09-10

Avatar Topher SabotJuly 1, 200920
Lindsey Van, World Champion.
Lindsey Van, World Champion.

Three years ago USSA made the decision to support a fledging international US Women’s Jumping program, a risky decision given the stage of development of the sport on the world stage.  But the move paid off when Lindsey Van won the first-ever Women’s Ski Jumping World Championship Gold Medal in Liberec this past winter.

But now Van, and her US teammates are struggling to find funding after USSA decided not to name a US Women’s Jumping Team for the upcoming season.

This wasn’t an issue of performance as Van also finished 4th in the overall Continental Cup standings (there is currently no FIS World Cup for Women’s Ski Jumping, but the Continental Cup series features the top athletes in the world), and teammates Alissa Johnson, Jessica Jerome, and Sarah Hendrickson were 14th, 17th, and 19th in those standings.  All four women had at least one podium finish during the season.  The results are there, and the ski community celebrated Van’s Gold, the first ever by either a man or a woman in US Jumping history.   The real issue is the Olympics.

Olympic Goals

Last year, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) refused Women’s Ski Jumping request for inclusion in the 2010 Olympic Games.  After efforts by an international group of women jumpers failed to alter the ruling, the same group filed a lawsuit against the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee (VANOC), claiming discrimination.  The lawsuit is pending, with no date set for a final ruling.  So at this moment Women’s Jumping will not be an event in Vancouver, and the US Ski team has an explicit goal of winning Olympic Gold Medals.

According to USSA Nordic Director John Farra, the decision to not name a Team is about the Olympics, and only the Olympics.  With a an economic recession and budget cuts across the board, USSA could not justify funding a program that would not be at the Olympics.

Farra called the situation “one of the hardest things to deal with” since coming to USSA, and is quick to point out that this is not a permanent situation.  There is even a plan and budget in place if the lawsuit is settled in the jumpers’ favor and the sport is contested in Vancouver.  He also made it clear that the team was not “cut.”  All US Ski Teams are named on a yearly basis.  At this point no Women’s Jumping Team has been named, and most likely won’t be until next year, but USSA remains the National Governing Body for the sport, with Farra performing a range of administrative tasks ranging from National Ranking lists to overseeing domestic competition.

Van expressed significant frustration with the situation.  “After such an amazing year for ski jumping it was really a surprise.  This was the first medal in an Olympics or World Championship in ski jumping, so I expected more from the Ski Team.  I understand their financial reasoning, but it still does not add up in my head.”

Farra said he is doing all he can to support the athletes in other ways, stating that from his perspective, the top women “are on the National Team.”  Six women jumpers are on the USST equivalent list These athletes have access to the new Center of Excellence in Park City and US Olympic Training Centers, and Farra will provide uniforms and is working with USSA partners to help with funding.

Looking For Funds

But there is now a large budget gap to make up, and at the end of the day it is all about the money.  The non-profit, Women’s Ski Jumping USA (WSJUSA) is trying to raise funds to support the jumpers for next season.  According to Jerome, they need $150,000, a number that includes travel budget, hill fees, equipment, and perhaps most importantly, the salary of coach Kjell Ivar Magnussen, the Norwegian hired to run the program three years ago.  Magnussen is considered one of the top coaches in the world.  Currently WSJUSA is retaining Magnussen, but more money is desperately needed.

Said Van “Keeping Kjell Ivar Magnussen is very important for our team. Without him, I fear things could fall apart.  He is a great leader with great ideas, and we need to keep him with our team.”

Jerome recognizes that this was not a simple decision for USSA, saying “I do know that it’s difficult to bring in money for a team that may not have an Olympic event going into an Olympic year. What I do know is that there were a lot of people at the Ski Team that worked extremely hard to continue their financial support.  Even though USST “cut” the program, they are still being supportive in every way they can. It’s not the first hurdle we have had to overcome.”

WSJUSA has provided significant funding to support Women’s Ski Jumping over the past years, often working in conjunction with USSA.  For example, for Junior World Championships, USSA funds the coach while WSJUSA funds the athletes.  But now WSJUSA will be responsible for everything.

“Most importantly,” continues Jerome, “the money we hope to raise will go towards continuing a development program and working to promote the sport at the grassroots level. We are currently planning fundraisers and accepting any donations. At this point, nothing is too small.”

Challenges

With the lawsuit and uncertainty surrounding the Olympics and now the loss of funding, US Women’s Jumpers are understandably frustrated.

“In the U.S., when it comes to most winter sports, the public only sees Olympic medals,” says Jerome.Very few people, unless they are avid ski fans, have an understanding of the significance of an overall World Cup title or a World Championship medal.  In Europe, the ski culture is more in tune with events outside of Olympic years.”

Farra concurs, adding that at the end of the day it is really all about Olympic medals.  Sponsors and fans alike see the Olympics as the highest standard and the true measurement of success in the US – this despite the fact that World Championship fields are at least as strong as Olympic fields.

Van finds the distinction hard to understand.  “This is America, and here in America, Olympic medals count, not World Championship medals.  The general public and USSA don’t value Olympic medals and World Championship medals the same.  Throughout the rest of the skiing world they are…so it is hard for me to understand the values given to certain events.”

She continues, “These obstacles do make me rethink my involvement in the sport.  How are we supposed to move forward when you do all you can, and we are not being rewarded as in other sports?  It is extremely hard to stay in a sport, where we now have to find private funding, or fund ourselves.  No other sport with this level of success is in this position.”

Jerome hopes to persevere and take the sport to a new level, both domestically and internationally.

“We have had quite a few ups and downs in the sport as a whole. If anything, it brings the team closer together and drives us harder. Generally, if you don’t have to work hard for something, it isn’t worth having. As a team, not only do we want to change the mentality the sport has had in the past few decades, we want to ensure that it stays that way for future generations. A lot of people don’t realize the struggle goes far deeper than just being on the hill. If it weren’t for our supporters, we would not be where we are today.”

And despite the challenges, Van is not ready to give up. “I still love the sport, and that is what keeps me involved.  I am not doing it for the money, the fame or any of that.  I do it for the pure love of flying and the unique qualities of the sport.”

Farra repeatedly stated his respect and admiration for how the US jumpers have managed each of the challenges they have encountered.  “They have been remarkable, I’m really proud of how they have handled all of this,” he said.

For more information on Women’s Ski Jumping in the US, and to support the athletes, visit the WSJUSA website at www.womensskijumpingusa.com.

US Women's Jumping Team
US Women's Jumping Team

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Topher Sabot

Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.

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20 comments

  • Avatar
    T.Eastman

    July 1, 2009 at 10:25 am

    Funding for Skier Cross but not for these jumpers? WTF?

  • Avatar
    Mike Trecker

    July 1, 2009 at 8:24 pm

    This is baffling, much more so than the cross country team and the endless debates over there. Certainly a big bummer for Lindsey and her teammates. The IOC needs to get on board with women’s jumping in the worst way. WTF is right.

    The men’s side is even more confusing. How can the U.S. produce some of the biggest and baddest cliff jumpers and air freaks of all time like Shane McConkey and Seth Morrison and yet we cannot fly?

  • Avatar
    kris freeman

    July 1, 2009 at 8:38 pm

    ski jumping actually takes talent Mike

  • Avatar
    landisa

    July 1, 2009 at 11:13 pm

    The USSA is supposed to be the United States Ski Association. They are, in essence, the United States Alpine Skiing Association. If you look at how much staff and funds are directed at Alpine vs Nordic Skiing there is no comparison. 2 years ago when I looked at this they had, in fact, one person on their web site dedicated to Nordic (Luke Bodensteiner).
    One option would be to usurp their caretaking role for the other sports because they are not taking care of them right now. Better would be for them to fill their shoes and take responsibility what we have given them (yes we have given the USSA this responsibility through a long history which in fact started, much, with ski juming).

  • Avatar
    Tim Kelley

    July 2, 2009 at 1:47 am

    As far as the USSA not supporting jumping … can we be surprised? Look at biathlon and masters xc ski racing. Weren’t they once part of the USSA? The bottom line is – if the USSA isn’t supporting your sport, then you need to support it yourself.

    But the big issue, IMO, is the sex discrimination on the part of the Olympic OC and the Vancouver organizers. How can this be happening in 2010? Baffling is right. And how can the networks, who always seem to have a hand in how the Olympic events morph … how can they not fight for women’s jumping, demand sex equality in the Olys and not make it a big issue? What could possibly be cooler and more of an empowerment statement to women that watching gals fly off huge ski jumps? Ski jumping is a time honored sport that most everyone in the world can relate to, as opposed to ski-cross and snowboard-cross. There should be a boycott of ticket sales for the Vancouver Olys: “If the chicks don’t fly, we don’t buy!”

  • Avatar
    Robert Duncan Douglas

    July 2, 2009 at 9:46 am

    The Big Picture is that in the near Future Women’s Ski Jumping(WSJ) will be an Olympic Sport. History Repeats Itself! I thought the reason stated that the were not including WSJ in the Olympic Games was that not enough World Championships had been held. The time for WSJ is coming it is inevitable. When it is an Olympic Sport We Should be there!!

    Right now the US has excellent results and the Athletes have to worry about other facets of the sport then being the best that they can be. The US cannot afford to fund a WSJ Program??

    Go Figure??

    What’s Wrong With Amateur Sport in the USA??

    Personally I think the US Cross Country Team, Nordic Combined Team, Biathlon Teams(Athletes and Staff included) are doing More than Excellent. Especially considering the little support that they get.

    Hopefully the USSA and the USOC will reconsider funding the WSJ Program.

  • Avatar
    one.be.lo

    July 2, 2009 at 11:49 am

    I agree, all of this is not the way it should be, the sexism, the disproportionate funding for alpine, and the awareness in the USA, but Kris, your comment was offhand and rude. I’d like to see you do some of the things that Seth and Shane (RIP) did. Extreme skiing, at the level those guys are at, definitely takes talent.

  • Avatar
    freeheels

    July 2, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    As a daily reader, I read a ton of dumb shit on this website. But Kris, your comment takes the cake for the most ignorant thing I’ve seen on nordicnerd.com in a while. It’s attitudes like that which ultimately scare many potential talented athletes away from the Nordic sports into Alpine or the like. Those guys are (were) such unbelievably talented skiers that watching them should make you cry.
    Good luck to the Jumper Girls! Keep up the good fight.
    -summacamp out.

  • Avatar
    Mike Trecker

    July 2, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    Wow, do I feel small, nice beat down, thank you sir may I have another.

    Although I’m no blubbering crybaby, I have been a little misty eyed and inspired by many athletes and I have to say that I can recognize talent when I see it. I hold Kris’, Lindsey’s and this spring after his death, Shane’s performances on tape to be equally awe inspiring. All tremendously talented.

    In no way did I intend to diss America’s jumpers with my question above, just curious about the decline of our jumping program and wondering about where we might find some more recruits? Perhaps we could get some people that are disenchanted with the Alpine team to give jumping a try? Having known Shane for a brief stint in Boulder and given the mentality of the college jumpers of a bygone era, the two seemed like a perfect match. Of course if there’s no future and no money, its hard to recruit anybody.

    I also wish to echo Duncan’s comments above, right on.

  • Avatar
    kris freeman

    July 2, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    I meant no disrespect to you Mike. However in response to freeheels. Grow a sack and use your real name.

  • Avatar
    kris freeman

    July 2, 2009 at 8:31 pm

    I admit that I have a negative attitude towards so called “extreme sports.” I don’t respect sports that involve more risk than talent. Certainly jumping off a cliff, gliding through the air in a glide suit and pulling a chute takes practice and skill. However it also takes a lack of self-preservation instinct. I also believe that many more people are capable of pulling off extreme stunts than mastering an age old sport the way Lindsay has.
    Watching the Olympics embrace sports that have origins in the x-games at the expense of traditional events like ski jumping makes me sick. Its about ratings and money instead of good sports and competition. Resources should be used to promote the sports that already exist instead of inventing and supporting new ones. If people in this country understood the skill and training involved in jumping they could appreciate it more and crap “sports” like skier cross would not dominate TV time.

  • Avatar
    skijumper

    July 2, 2009 at 10:04 pm

    kris freeman… you da man

  • Avatar
    Mike Trecker

    July 3, 2009 at 8:08 am

    I agree with all that for sure. And Kris you are da man.

    Especially well put…..”Watching the Olympics embrace sports that have origins in the x-games at the expense of traditional events like ski jumping makes me sick. Its about ratings and money instead of good sports and competition.” – So true

    American culture just seems so sucked into the gimmick and the quick and can’t really recognize a good thing when we see it. Jumping is so pure and epic, yet so smooth that we can’t recognize the epic. And just like you said above, watching people get into the X factor over jumping makes me sick. Seems like American’s need things to be jerky and explosive in order to recognize the talent. That’s why the slam dunk has dominated the NBA and the purity of the outside shot and great defense has been marginalized. At least until we got waxed internationally a couple of times, now the trend may have shifted back a little.

    We have this issue in XC also, how many of us are more than quick to get the newest wax or skis but slow to put in the work to make these things effective?

    My point about the cliff flyers goes hand in hand with the above sentiments. It seems all wrapped up into a big American cultural issue.

  • FasterSkier
    FasterSkier

    July 3, 2009 at 8:29 am

    Kris’ points about “extreme” sports, and Mike’s follow up are very good. One thing to add, however, is that this is not solely an American issue. While there is no question, that the US public seems to gravitate toward the extreme sports more than anywhere else, the promotion of these events on the international level is more wide-spread. The inclusion of skier cross and not women’s jumping in the Olympics had nothing to do with the US – this was a decision by the IOC.

    This issue would be less of a big deal if it was only the US, but because of the pressures of television and the desire to stay “cool” the move to extreme sports is a world wide phenomenon, and one that will ultimately be difficult to slow or reverse.

  • Avatar
    freeheels

    July 3, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    growing a sack would assume that my gender was a female. Quite paradoxical considering this article is about women’s sports. McConkey raced Alpine at CU, progressed into big mountain as it better suited his talents. My Point-embrace all athletes and the larger talent pool will produce more quality Nordic Skiers. The only reason Nordic has an ounce of commercial viability these days is because of Sprinting. Which, by design resembles the X factor sports you speak of. If you don’t think these guys would make good Nordic skiers your crazy. Using the word ignorant in the place of a differing of opinion was my mistake. Sorry. Bottom line, we need more people in winter sports and have attitude toward any of them is a mistake.

  • Avatar
    Tim Kelley

    July 3, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    Good posts Kris and Mike. FS … I might point out that as far as extreme sports go – yes, American culture embraces it heartily. But historically I believe the US is “late to the party”. If I’m not mistaken – early extreme sports like extreme skiing, free climbing, base jumping and derivatives started in Europe in the 70s and 80s. Then it spread to North America and morphed to different extreme sports here. So yes – extreme sports are deeply rooted in Europe. And many IOC delegates have Euro roots and live in what is now a time-honored culture of, as Kris says, “risk before talent”. This seems ironic to me. As an American I’ve always considered “old country” Euros as people that cherish tradition more than Americans. So in this light it’s surprising that the IOC doesn’t stand up for jumping in the Olympics more than they fall for ski-cross and boarder-cross. I guess big bucks from networks trumps tradition.

  • Avatar
    JustAnotherSkier

    July 4, 2009 at 2:41 am

    Seven xc skiers dropped from the nordic team. Women jumpers dropped. “All In” is now “All Out”. I get it now. Oh yeah, pretty new nice new building USSA.

  • Avatar
    skier1

    July 12, 2009 at 4:03 am

    I do not think it makes sense to react to lack of external support (IOC) by sabotaging internal support (USSA) for the same skiers who are well deserving of support. A setback in external support should be met by the opposite- very solid internal support.
    Why are we so rigidly attached to rigidly defined goals? Are we so impaired and inflexible in our goal setting skills that we are using our “goal” (“of winning Olympic medals”) to make a backward and destructive choice, one that undermines our progress toward our real long term goals? Why not examine the stated “goals” and make them more representative of what our goals really are?
    I think the USSA is demonstrating very poor skills in the area of setting, and making productive use of, goals.
    Regardless of what the IOC does, it is stupid for the USSA to cut womens jumping. Why are we letting the IOC have so much control over our national program, when they are clearly out to lunch?

  • Avatar
    Jamey Holstein

    July 18, 2009 at 7:46 pm

    SHAME SHAME SHAME!!!!

    Marolt and Tom Kelly, you have failed the US Nordic sports community and mandate to promote and increase (relative to population growth) the nordic sports. Luke, you toed the line because you know where your salary comes from.

    As The Donald say.s…”Your fired” Lets get some ‘nads and get a nordic sports/association and national team. Canada and US Biathlon are on the right track!

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