Female ski jumpers have waited 86 years for their sport to be included at the Olympic Games, and now they will have to wait six more months.
The International Olympic Committee’s (IOC’s) executive board announced Monday that a decision about whether to add women’s ski jumping to the program for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi would not be made until next spring—quashing the hopes of athletes and supporters who had hoped for a definitive ruling.
While an IOC press release said that the executive board is looking “favorably” at women’s ski jumping, the final word will not come until after the World Ski Championships conclude in Oslo in March. At that point, IOC President Jacques Rogge will have sole authority to approve or deny the sport’s inclusion at Sochi.
According to Deedee Corradini, the president of Women’s Ski Jumping USA (WSJUSA), the IOC gave no criteria to serve as a basis for Rogge’s upcoming decision.
“There was no specificity in an answer,” she said. “Presumably, they’re talking about more jumpers [participating] from more countries.”
In a conference call Monday afternoon, Corradini said that one possible reason for the delay was an old IOC rule that required new sports to have conducted at least two World Championships before they could be considered for entry into the Olympics. That rule, Corradini said, has been removed, but she added that it was likely that it played into the executive board’s decision.
“Our sources, over the past couple of weeks, have started to filter in, saying that it would be a conditional approval,” she said.
Corradini said that she looked at the IOC’s decision “very positively,” but she also acknowledged that the delay in approval would make it harder for WSJUSA to attract sponsors and raise the $200,000 that it costs to run the U.S. women’s jumping program for one year.
“There’s no question that fundraising will be so much easier once we have a final decision that we are in Sochi 2014,” Corradini said.
WSJUSA raises all the money for America’s female ski jumpers, as the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) pulled its funding from its women’s team last year when the sport was denied for inclusion in the 2010 Olympics. Corradini said that that support probably would not return until at least next year.
“We are in regular communication with USSA, and what we’ve heard from them is, ‘let’s talk after you are in the Olympics,’” Corradini said. “I’m not sure that they will consider this a definite yes, so we may have to wait to have further conversations with them.”
In a statement, USSA Vice President of Athletics Luke Bodensteiner said that “we respect the decision making process of the IOC and are pleased that they will continue to consider several new sports for inclusion in the 2014 Olympics. The addition of new events will enhance the relevance and public appeal of the Games and will help to connect the millions of youth worldwide who participate in these sports to the Olympic movement.”
While the IOC’s decision will make the next six months more challenging for WSJUSA, Lindsey Van, the American who won the first world championship in women’s ski jumping history in 2009, said that she was still confident about her sport’s chances for Sochi.
“I’m not really concerned about the stipulations they put on it today,” Van said in the conference call. “They said they’re looking for progress in the sport…they will see that progress at World Championships.”
Nathaniel Herz is a reporter for FasterSkier, who also covers city government for the Anchorage Daily News in Alaska. You can follow him on twitter @nat_herz.