Women ski jumpers are hoping this month they will finally get the nod from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that they will be included in the Olympic Winter Games beginning in 2014 in Sochi.
The Executive Board (EB) of the IOC will meet Oct. 24-26 in Acapulco, Mexico following a joint meeting with the National Olympic Committees. According to an IOC release, “…the EB will … decide on the disciplines and events that will be included in the sports programme of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi.” IOC rules require that new disciplines for an Olympics be approved three years before the Games.
“I am hopeful that the IOC Executive Board will vote the women into Sochi 2014 because we have advanced women’s ski jumping significantly since the decision was made not to include the women in Vancouver 2010,” said Deedee Corradini, longtime women’s jumping advocate and president of Women’s Ski Jumping USA.
The International Ski Federation has recommended twice to the IOC to include women’s ski jumping in Sochi; three World Championships will have taken place before 2014; and a new World Cup circuit starts in 2011/2012.
The IOC Program Commission, which met Sept. 30 at IOC headquarters in Lausanne, is expected to provide its recommendations to the EB on new disciplines for the Sochi sports program, a package rumored in the media to include women’s ski jumping and ski halfpipe.
“Approval for Sochi 2014 is huge for the advancement of the sport — it will further bring many more young women and girls in to the sport that have stayed away because they haven’t been welcome on the ultimate stage: the Olympics,” Corradini said. More athletes and new countries join the competition circuit every year.
For veteran women ski jumpers like Alissa Johnson, of Park City, Utah, it would mean she could fully concentrate on her future as an athlete. “For once in my life I could truly be considered an equal to my male counterparts in the sport,” said Johnson, whose younger brother, Anders, is a two-time Olympic ski jumper. “It would inspire me to continue to be the absolute best athlete that I can be, so that when I have my chance at the Games, I can fight for the Gold medal I have been dreaming about since I was 5.”
Being included in the Olympic program also would make athlete and program sponsorship much easier, Corradini said. In May 2009, the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association cut all funding to the women’s ski jumping team because it was not part of the Olympic program. Women’s Ski Jumping USA (WSJUSA), a nonprofit foundation, took over financial responsibility for the team last year and continues to raise money to get elite jumpers to competitions and pay for the coach.
After hearing the jumpers’ inspiring story, a New York fine-art photographer has organized an upscale benefit on Oct. 21 in New York City to help raise money to send the women’s team to the World Championships in Oslo, Norway in February 2011. WSJUSA is supporting the event and more details are available at www.wsjusa.com.
When asked if women are ready to jump in the Olympic Games, Johnson gives an emphatic, “yes.”
“It’s not even a question in my mind if we are ready or not. Because we are,” she said. Women jumpers had hoped to be in Salt Lake 2002 (where women were forerunners for the men), Torino 2006 and Vancouver 2010.
“This would give a lot of the older athletes more inspiration to continue with their careers. But most importantly, it would mean that our long struggle over the last decade would finally come to an end. We would finally have the opportunity to accomplish our dreams,” Johnson said.