Monday, October 25, 2010
IOC to further weigh proposed sports
ACAPULCO, Mexico -- The wait goes on for women's ski jumping.
After losing their battle to get into the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, women jumpers will have to hold on for a few more months to learn if they'll be competing in the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia.
The International Olympic Committee said Monday it looks "favorably" on women's ski jumping and six other proposed new events but put off a final decision until after their world championships in 2011. The executive board gave IOC President Jacques Rogge the personal mandate to make the final ruling himself.
The IOC twice turned down women's ski jumping for inclusion in Vancouver, saying the sport lacked enough elite competitors. Women jumpers took their case all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, but failed to overturn the IOC decision.
"We are trying to understand the progress made since the first application, and see if more people are practicing the sport," Gilbert Felli, the IOC's executive director of the Olympic Games, said Monday.
Women jumpers were hoping for outright IOC approval for Sochi, but the committee decided it needs to assess the quality of competition at the upcoming world championships in Norway. Still, the event has moved a step closer to Olympic status.
"They said they were favorably looking at the sport," U.S. jumper Lindsey Van, winner of last year's inaugural world championship, said by telephone. "I have to think positively. They didn't say no, so we're headed in the right direction.
"For us it's just another delay. For us athletes, it doesn't change anything. We're going to get up tomorrow and train. We're still in the same place. We're optimistic about what might happen."
Ski jumping and Nordic Combined, which features ski jumping and cross-country skiing, are the only Winter Olympic events open only to men.
Deedee Corradini, a women's jumping advocate and president of Women's Ski Jumping USA, welcomed the IOC's statement Monday.
"We consider it a win," she said. "We're excited about it. We feel as though we're on our way. ... We're convinced we're going to be in Sochi 2014."
Also facing further review next year are slopestyle events in snowboard and Alpine freestyle, ski halfpipe, mixed relay in biathlon, and team events in figure skating and luge.
"The atmosphere was very positive," IOC spokesman Mark Adams said. "I think we would characterize it to say that the executive board is looking favorably on all of those for inclusion."
Felli said he expects a ruling in April, since the last world championship events in those disciplines will be in March.
Out of eight proposed new events, one was rejected -- a team event in Alpine skiing. The event, which has been held at the world championships since 2005, features racers going head-to-head in a parallel giant slalom.
Rogge has said he supports the addition of women's jumping if there is a continued growth in the number of top competitors.
The first women's ski jumping world championship took place last year in Liberec, Czech Republic. Next year's championship will be held in Oslo on Feb. 25.
"We want a good assessment of the progress made," Felli said. "We believe there should be more progress that we can witness at this world championships than it was last time."
The International Ski Federation plans to start a women's ski jumping World Cup circuit starting with the 2011-12 season. Women have competed on the Continental Cup circuit since 2005.
"I think the fact that President Jacques Rogge is going to personally make the decision as opposed to the executive board after the world championship is good, and we're going to have a terrific world championship," Corradini said.
Ulrike Graessler, a German who finished second behind Van at last year's worlds, wasn't so positive after the IOC postponement.
"It's very sad and hurts a lot," she said. "We have to wait for another half a year. Not only do we have to perform but we also have to prove that women can ski jump."
The IOC also decided to keep the freestyle event of skicross for the Sochi Games after it had been included on a provisional basis for Vancouver. Felli said women's ice hockey, which was criticized for being dominated by the U.S. and Canada, will also remain in the games.
The addition of slopestyle and ski halfpipe events would be the latest push by the IOC to bring in events that appeal to youth. Skicross made its debut in Vancouver.
In slopestyle, athletes do tricks while going down the mountain and through "features" -- rails, big jumps and bumps. American snowboard star Shaun White, who won halfpipe gold in Vancouver, has said he would like to add slopestyle to his schedule if it's approved for Sochi.
Ski slopestyle is similar to the snowboard version.
In ski halfpipe, skiers score points for performing tricks and jumps on the same course used for the snowboard halfpipe. The event is on the schedule for the 2011 Freestyle Ski World Championships in Park City, Utah.
In skating, a World Team Trophy was held for the first time last year in Tokyo. The event featured eight skaters per team -- two male single skaters, two female single skaters, one pairs couple and one ice dancing couple.