Unless a Canadian court decides otherwise, the ski jumper with
the longest flight on record at Vancouver's Olympic facility will
not attend the winter Games in February.
She is not allowed to compete.
Olympic ski jumping is a men's-only domain. Since the first
winter Games in 1924, men have been swooping down snowy ramps at 55
m.p.h. and springing into flight - human rockets hurtling chin-
first, hands thrown behind, and skis angled forward. With nothing
but speed and their skis to aid them, they fly the length of a
football field or farther - a feat of technical genius disguised in
But women can do it, too - the best often flying as far as men.
With women now included in such formerly all-male Olympic events
as boxing, wrestling, bobsleigh, and luge, the last Olympic door
closed to women is ski jumping.
But American ski jumper Lindsey Van - who set the record on the
90-meter jump when the Olympic venue opened in Vancouver, British
Columbia, last year and is the reigning world champion - hasn't
given up on prying that door open. It's a logical step for the 24-
year-old, who, since age 7, has been soaring over Earth's mundane
limits on what is possible.
She and more than a dozen other women jumpers from Slovenia to
Norway hope to legally force the addition of women's jumping before
the Games open Feb. 12. Their lawsuit against the Vancouver
Organizing Committee (VANOC) contends that not allowing women to
jump for gold is a form of discrimination under Canadian laws that
prohibit gender discrimination in government activities.
A Canadian judge, last summer, agreed: It is discrimination.
But her ruling concluded that while VANOC is subject to those
antidiscrimination laws, it can't control the events - that's the
domain of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The IOC voted
in 2006 against including women's ski jumping in 2010 because it
deemed there weren't enough high-level women to create competition
worthy of the Olympics. Because the IOC isn't bound by Canadian law,
the judge ruled, Canada is powerless to change the program.
So the jumpers' appeal asks Canada to refuse to hold the men's
event unless both genders can compete.
When the appeal is heard Nov. 12 and 13, it will highlight not
just women's battle to wipe out the last vestige of an old-boys-
club Olympic culture, but also competing demands on the Olympic
* Allowing athletes to pursue success on the most visible world
* Broadening the appeal of the Games among Gen-Xers interested in
more extreme sports while keeping costs manageable.
* Satisfying TV, a key sponsor.
"IT'S A TEXTBOOK CASE OF DISCRIMINATION," says Anita DeFrantz,
chair of the IOC's Women and Sports Commission. "This group of
athletes is being told that they're not good enough, that there
aren't enough women in the top level.... That's never been an issue
The IOC defends its position as preservation of the Olympic
standard, saying the top women jumpers don't deserve the same gold
that is awarded to figure skaters and alpine skiers who have risen
to the top of far larger fields.
But the IOC's recent record of admitting both women's events (see
chart) and disciplines with weak fields - such as bobsleigh and ski
cross - suggests the issue is not as clear-cut as either side
More than 80 years after men's ski jumping debuted as one of six
original Olympic sports, the International Ski Federation (FIS) -
which stages ski events at the Olympics - voted in 2006 to recommend
women's jumping for inclusion in the 2010 Games. The federation
endorsed women's ski cross over ski jumping. Neither sport fully met
the IOC criteria for inclusion. The IOC only approved ski cross,
which had the required two world championships but less than half as
many elite women as ski jumping. Men's ski jumping doesn't meet the
criteria either, but was grandfathered in. …