Women ski jumpers finally get chance on big stage

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 7, 2014 at 9:45 am •  Published: February 7, 2014
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SOCHI, Russia (AP) — About the only thing that grounds America's women ski jumpers is when they're asked to talk about the men.

They shouldn't have to much longer. Ninety years after men first started jumping for gold in the Olympics, women are finally getting their chance to soar.

"We waited a long time to be here," Lindsey Van said. "I can't wait to show everybody our sport."

Van gets her chance to do just that Tuesday when the long struggle she helped spearhead becomes a reality and women take flight in the mountains outside Sochi. It's a moment she and the other pioneers of the sport have waited a decade for, and they're already basking in the moment.

"I'm just humbled and thrilled to be here," U.S. teammate Jessica Jerome said. "It was a long, uphill battle."

That the battle was finally won is largely due to Van, Jerome and a group of parents who wouldn't stand still for the idea that their daughters couldn't compete on the same jumps as men — and do it on the grand stage that is the Olympics.

Armed with a copy of "Nonprofit Kit for Dummies" they started an organization in 2003 to raise money for training and travel and would later file a discrimination lawsuit in Canada to force the IOC to include women's ski jumping in the 2010 Vancouver Games.

The effort failed, but enough attention had been given to the cause of equality that the IOC finally relented in 2011 and included women's ski jumping among a handful of new sports for the games in Sochi.

"It was essentially started by my mom complaining that something needed to change and something needed to be done," Jerome said. "She sent my dad out the door and he went and bought a nonprofit dummies book and that turned into what today is Women's Ski Jumping USA."

Jerome, Van and reigning world champion Sarah Hendrickson are the U.S. medal hopefuls in a field of 30 that includes Japanese teen sensation Sara Takanashi. They will jump off the normal hill in Sochi, reaching speeds of up to 60 mph before soaring to what is hopefully a soft landing below.

Men and women go off different gates on the hill so comparisons are difficult, and none of the three U.S. jumpers was particularly eager to answer a question Friday about whether they could go further than men because of their size. Hard to blame them, since they and others have spent years trying to get women's ski jumping recognition as a sport of its own.



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