Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Women ski jumpers lose last option
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Female ski jumpers are setting their sights on 2014 now that they have lost their final bid to compete at the Vancouver Olympics.
The Supreme Court of Canada refused on Tuesday to hear an appeal of two lower-court rulings that said Canada's Charter of Rights cannot dictate which sports are included in the Winter Games.
The women contend that Vancouver organizers are breaking the charter by hosting only men's ski jumping.
American jumper Lindsay Van, who won the first women's World Championship in February in the Czech Republic, said she was disappointed but not surprised by the court's action.
"I feel totally opposed to everything the Olympics stand for," Van said. "They're not fulfilling their charter."
Van said she has spent years training alongside men who will compete in February.
"It's definitely going to be hard to watch," she said.
The lower courts ruled that the charter does not apply to the International Olympic Committee, which decides which sports and events are included in each games.
"We are very disappointed the Supreme Court of Canada does not view this as matter of national importance," said Ross Clark, attorney for the female jumpers.
The Supreme Court, as is its custom, gave no reasons for its decision.
The IOC has said it hopes that women's ski jumping will meet the requirements for inclusion at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
Deedee Corradini, president of Women's Ski Jumping USA, said the women will not give up in their fight to be in the Olympics.
"No qualified athlete should be denied the right to participate in the Olympics because of gender," Corradini said. "We knew it was a long shot. This really has been a David versus Goliath story."
Corradini said the group will continue to press the IOC to include women ski jumpers in the 2014 Olympics.
"Without this fight, I don't think the women would have a chance at 2014," Corradini said.
The women first launched a lawsuit against local organizers in May 2008, 18 months after the IOC decided against the inclusion of women's ski jumping.
They dropped a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission when the federal government agreed to lobby the IOC. When that failed, they pursued a court case.
The women wanted the courts to force Vancouver organizers to either add a women's event or cancel the men's competition. Organizers said they could do neither.
The IOC voted not to include women's ski jumping at the 2010 Winter Olympics because the sport didn't meet the necessary criteria for inclusion. The IOC requires that a sport must have contested at least two world championships before it can become an Olympic event. There are also rules dictating how far in advance a sport can be added to the Olympic program.
The women countered they have since held enough international events to qualify for consideration as an Olympic sport and said it wouldn't be difficult for organizers to accommodate one additional event.
The IOC has decided to include women's ski jumping at the inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games in 2012 in Innsbruck, Austria, and will consider adding the event to the 2014 games.
IOC president Jacques Rogge said earlier this month that the women had not met the standards for inclusion in 2010.
"We did not want the medals to be watered down by too little a pool of very good jumpers," he said. "There was not enough quality at the time."
Rogge said there are 164 registered women jumpers in the world, compared to more than 2,500 men. He said there are about 15 "technically very able" jumpers but the rest are not up to world standards.
"We are considering definitely to include them in Sochi should the progress they are making continue," Rogge said.