KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — Daniela Iraschko-Stolz is doing her best to give women's ski jumping a high profile in her sport's first appearance at the Winter Olympics.
Not long after the Austrian dominated training for the second consecutive day ahead of Tuesday's historic first gold medal for women's ski jumping, the openly-gay Iraschko-Stolz became one of the first athletes at the Sochi Games to comment on Russia's law banning homosexual "propaganda."
And surprisingly, she wasn't critical.
"I don't think it's a good idea to make protests here, no one cares," she said after training Sunday. "I know Russia will go and make the right steps in the future and we should give them time."
The lead-up to the Sochi Games was dominated by criticism of Russia's new law and suggestions that athletes and officials should protest during the Olympics.
But Iraschko-Stolz, 30, said she has no issue with Russia.
"I am here as a sportswoman," she said. "I always say I'm together with my woman now and don't have any problems, not in Russia or with the Austrian federation. Ten years ago it was different."
"To jump pretty good is also a statement," she said.
She's been doing that. With another day of training set for Monday, Iraschko-Stolz has emerged as a real threat to 17-year-old gold medal favorite Sara Takanashi of Japan.
Iraschko-Stolz relegated Takanashi, who has 10 World Cup victories this season, to second place in two of three training jumps Saturday. She finished first in two training runs Sunday before deciding not to bother with the third.
"It's one of the best hills ever," Iraschko-Stolz said. "I love that hill."
Takanashi was first in the third session, after coming in second and third in the others, and has a distinctly different impression of the hill at the RusSki Gorki Jumping Center.
"I would like to have more time to adjust to the hill because there are none like this in Japan," she said. "I'm not really happy with my three jumps."
Women ski jumpers have been fighting for more than a decade to get into the Olympics, including an unsuccessful court case ahead of the Vancouver Games in 2010. The International Olympic Committee added women's jumping from the normal hill to the Sochi program in 2011, giving the women access to Winter Games gold 90 years after the men.
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