LONDON, April 6, 2011 — For the first time in Olympic Winter Games history, women will participate in ski jumping, beginning in Sochi, Russia in 2014.
The International Olympic Committee made the announcement today during the IOC Executive Board’s press conference in London, site of the 2012 Summer Games.
“We are elated and relieved,” said Deedee Corradini, Women’s Ski Jumping USA president. “Sochi, Russia can proudly proclaim that it will be hosting the first gender-equal Winter Games in Olympic history.” Ski jumping (and Nordic Combined) were the only disciplines in the Winter Games that did not allow women to participate.
In October 2010, the IOC EB said it was “looking favorably” at adding women’s ski jumping to Sochi 2014, but said it needed more time to consider the outcome of the sport’s 2011 World Championships in Oslo in February. In grueling weather conditions and in front of nearly 10,000 spectators, 43 athletes from 15 nations competed in Oslo compared to 36 athletes from 13 nations in Liberec, Czech Republic in 2009. Five of the top six finishers in Oslo were from different countries and ranged in age from 27 to 14.
IOC senior members Gunilla Lindberg and Gerhard Heiberg, a winter sports expert, both publically praised the women’s event in Oslo — a positive pre-cursor to today’s announcement.
Christophe Dubi, the IOC’s Sports Director, said Wednesday the main reason a women’s event was approved for Sochi 2014 is the increase in quality and depth in women’s ski jumping from the 2009 World Championships to the 2011 Worlds.
The International Ski Federation had 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.
“I am thrilled the IOC decided to add our sport. Personally, this means a lot to me. I started ski jumping when there were no international women’s competitions,” said 26-year-old Lindsey Van, the 2009 World Champion. “Women’s ski jumping has been growing over the past 10 years, but inclusion in the Olympics is what our sport needed to take the next step.
“We’ve worked really hard as athletes fighting for our sport, so this feels like a big success,” Van said.
Participation in women’s ski jumping continues to increase worldwide. Since 2006, when the IOC turned down a women’s ski jumping event for 2010, at least three more countries have women ski jumpers competing at the elite level including Romania, Russia and China. In that same year, 83 women from 14 nations were registered to compete on the FIS Continental Cup and in 2010, those numbers increased to 182 women from 18 nations.
“It feels like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. To have it accepted feels amazing,” said veteran U.S. jumper Jessica Jerome, who finished sixth overall this season. “This decision gives our sport more validity in the sense that it can only keep growing from here.”