Women Ski Jumpers Lose Lawsuit

FasterSkierJuly 10, 20095

Vancouver – BC Supreme Court Justice Lauri Ann Fenlon has denied the 15 elite women ski jumpers suing VANOC the declaration they sought, but found discrimination by the International Olympic Committee, but she will not declare that if the men’s ski jumping events are held at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, then women’s ski jumping events must be held as well.

According to the plaintiff’s lawyer Ross Clark, Q.C., though Madame Justice Fenlon found VANOC is subject to the Charter when it carries out the activities of planning, organizing and staging the Games, the decision of whether women’s ski jumping is an Olympic event is beyond VANOC’s control.

“We are disappointed that the women’s right to participate in 2010 has not been recognized by the Court,” Clark said.  “But we respect the Court’s opinion and we believe we had a fair hearing.  We accept the judge’s ruling, but we also need time to consider whether we will appeal.”

Deedee Corradini, president of Women Ski Jumping-USA, said it’s terribly disappointing, but the experience and effort was important.

“No one wanted to go to court over this, but we had no choice,” she explained.  “We did everything possible, followed the rules, grew the sport, held World Championships and the IOC remained opposed to including women in ski jumping.  We won’t give up until women’s ski jumping is in the Olympics, but it’s unfortunate this legal effort failed and they won’t be in 2010.”

Katie Willis, a highly ranked Canadian ski jumper and one of the plaintiffs said she was very distressed by the news.

“It’s awful that we lost, but I’m glad we tried,” Willis said.  “We needed to try every possible avenue to get into the Olympics and when my Canadian teammates and I were frustrated with the Canadian government’s lack of effort with the IOC, we had no choice but to join the lawsuit.”

Jessica Jerome, another plaintiff and a member of the American women’s ski jumping team, said the news has left her “extremely disheartened.”

“We did the best we could, and all we can do is hope for a better outcome in the future.  Of course, it’s extremely disheartening,” Jerome pointed out.  “I feel like we were trying to do the right thing to advance the sport as a whole, not just for the girls currently competing, but for the upcoming generation as well.  Unfortunately, this decision will affect a lot of talented skiers.  I am hopeful the future of women’s ski jumping will look more promising.”

Ski jumping is the only sport in the Olympic Winter Games not open to both men and women.

For a PDF copy of the judgment, go to www.wsjusa.com or www.courts.gov.bc.ca.

Source: WSJUSA


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  • Tim Kelley

    July 10, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    I read the court statement. Seems like a weasel judgment and the court is wrong (or in corrupt cahoots with the VANOC). And it’s even more offending that a female judge offered up this decision.

    The Canadian “Charter” is supposed to protect against sex discrimination for programs that are supported or controlled by the Canadian government. If it wasn’t for Canadian governments (National, BC, Vancouver, Whistler) funding all but $12 million of the $592 cost of developing Olympic venues … there would be no 2010 Olympics. Government money controls the existence of the 2010 Olympics. Why can’t Judge Fenlon see that basic fact? So, VANOC and the IOC are breaking Canadian law by allowing sex discrimination at the Olympics.

    Should the jumper girls appeal? I don’t know. Maybe they should file suit to remove men’s ski jumping from the Olympics. Judge Fenlon seemed to imply that was an option. Of course I know that they don’t want that. But it could be a move that creates enough disruption and media turmoil that would pressure the IOC and VANOC will allow womens’ jumping in 2010.

    I would also hope that the networks get pressure about funneling many hundreds of millions to organizations, like IOC and VANOC, that openly discriminate against women. Even Judge Fenlon admits to this discrimination. This is all just un-freakin-believable. How can the IOC still be sex discriminating in 2010 in the world’s biggest winter sports event? Pathetic.

  • triguy

    July 11, 2009 at 6:26 pm

    Tim, seems like you didn’t read the court statement well enough. The Judge ruled that VANOC is accountable to the Charter because it is providing a ‘governmental’ activity. The fact that it is funded by the different governments has no impact on whether or not the Charter applies (FYI over $1 billion was contributed by private sponsors and the IOC). The other thing that was disscussed is the fact that the IOC controls the events that are included in the Olympics and VANOC has no control over the events it hosts during the 2010 games. The only thing the judge could have done was prevented the mens competition from happening, she couldn’t have ruled that VANOC must hold a womens event.

    She also found it was only discriminatory because the men are ‘grandfathered’ into the games because they have been in the Olympics prior to 1949 when the new rules were introduced. It was noted that it is actually easier for a womens sport to get into the Olympics because of a lower threshold for the number of participating countries required.

    Clearly VANOC was not the right group to go after in this case. The IOC and FIS are in control of the skiing sports at the Olympics and they are the ones that for whatever reason don’t want womens ski jumping at the Olympics. Obviously the IOC/FIS could have easily added ski jumping for 2010 but they didn’t, so going after the hosts that have no control over the events isn’t a great strategy.

  • Tim Kelley

    July 12, 2009 at 10:10 am

    Triguy – If you read all of this court statement, I don’t see how one can claim that this is not a lame opt-out. The judge could have easily ruled against the VANOC by using a concept called common sense (that Canadian governments funding enabled the IOC to hold the Olympics in Canada by underwriting $580 million of venue development). But instead the court chose the path of least resistance to justify doing nothing. The court had the opportunity to set precedence – to rule the VANOC must honor equal events per sex and stop the IOC from pushing sexual discrimination on this Canadian event, that exists because of Canadian investments. If the VANOC or the IOC didn’t like the ruling – they could have appealed it. But likely it would have been cheaper, easier and less bad-media for the IOC/ VANOC to allow women jumpers into the Olympics, so the appeal would never happen and the problem would have been solved by the court.

  • triguy

    July 12, 2009 at 9:32 pm

    It sounds like the judge had some fairly sound legal precedence to base her decisions on the Charter in this case. It certainly would have set a precedence but not in the way you described. It would now mean that any organization receiving money from any government would now be subject to the Charter, that is a fairly bold precedence to set and would be appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada and overturned.

    To be fair the only thing the court could have done was rule that the IOC must apply the rules as they are written in the Olympic Charter and remove all sports that don’t meet the eligibility standards at the time of the selection for the 2010 events and also increase the threshold for womens sports to match the men so that they don’t have an unfair advantage in getting sports accepted to the games. That would be fair and equal treatment. Simply adding a womens competition because the men have one isn’t equality.

  • nordic_dave

    July 14, 2009 at 2:12 pm


    Thanks for making a stand, you rock!
    Say hi to your parents for me, I know they are proud.

    Dave Knoop
    Park City

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