Women Can't Jump, Olympic Panel Says
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
And I'm Robert Siegel.
This week, members of the International Olympic Committee are visiting Canada to make sure everything is on track for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
One issue that may come up is ski jumping. Ski-jumping events are the only ones in the Winter Olympics that still have no women.
As NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce reports, some ski jumpers are making a last-ditch effort to change that.
NELL GREENFIELDBOYCE: Karla Keck is an American pioneer of women ski jumping. She goes to a lot of competitions, and she says, some clubs have more girls than boys out on the jumps.
Ms. KARLA KECK (American ski jumper): And every one of those little girls wants to be in the Olympics.
GREENFIELDBOYCE: Keck is working hard to make that possible. All her life, she's been promoting women ski jumping, a sport where women speed down a steep ramp and then launch into the air, flying the length of a football field.
In a couple of years ago, Keck and other jumpers got some good news. The sport's governing body, the International Ski Federation, recommended that women ski jumping be included in the 2010 Olympics games.
Ms. KECK: It was really exciting, but there is something inside of me that wouldn't allow me to believe it.
GREENFIELDBOYCE: After all, she'd hoped women ski jumping would be added to the 2002 Olympics, then 2006, but it just didn't happen. So, she was prepared when the International Olympic Committee rejected the recommendation for 2010. IOC officials say it wasn't that they didn't want women.
Ms. KECK: There seems to be a degree of misunderstanding as to the reasons why the decision was taken. There have been a number of people understanding that it's to do with discrimination. And that is misplaced and misguided.
GREENFIELDBOYCE: Giselle Davies is a spokesperson for the International Olympic Committee. She says women ski jumping was one of six proposed new events that didn't make the cut. A key obstacle for women ski jumping, she says, too few competitors from too few countries.
Ms. GISELLE DAVIES (Spokesperson, International Olympic Committee): For 2010, it's too soon. The technical level is not where it needs to be for an Olympic competition at a global level.
GREENFIELDBOYCE: But some people just don't buy that argument, including Anita DeFrantz, a former Olympic rower, who now heads the IOC's Women and Sport Commission.
Ms. ANITA DeFRANTZ (Head, International Olympic Committee Women and Sport Commission): In at least 16 or 18 countries that have women ski jumpers, there are over 100 women who are licensed ski jumpers in the world and active. And that seems like a pretty good showing especially for an Olympic winter sport.
GREENFIELDBOYCE: That argument is being echoed in Canada. Some parents of Canadian jumpers are outraged that their taxpayer money has gone to build Olympic ski jumps that are off-limits to their daughters.
Ms. SARAH LYNCH: In Canada, we're under the impression that women can do anything that men can do.
GREENFIELDBOYCE: Sarah Lynch just can't believe that her 17-year-old daughter, Zoya a top jumper, won't be able to go for the gold in her own country.
Ms. LYNCH: All we need is for the IOC to reverse their decision and recognize that, you know, in 2008, this is just not acceptable. It's not acceptable in Canada anyway.
GREENFIELDBOYCE: To try and force the issue, one jumper's family made a complaint to Canada's Human Rights Commission, and the result was a recent settlement with the Canadian government. It promised to raise the issue with the IOC, and that could happen this week, when top Olympic officials visit Vancouver.
Those officials will also be met by billboards out by the airport and next to the city's Olympic offices. The big signs say let women ski jump. The signs were organized by a nonprofit called Women's Ski Jumping USA. The group is run by a former mayor of Salt Lake City, Deedee Coradini. She thinks an American could win a medal in 2010 if the women could compete.
Ms. DEEDEE CORADINI (President, Women's Ski Jumping USA): This is a sport that's been around since 1924. The venue is there. All we're asking for is one simple event on the Normal Hill.
GREENFIELDBOYCE: Coradini knows the IOC from her work on the 2002 Olympics. She thinks it isn't too late for the IOC to change its mind. But the IOC spokesperson says they've already made their decision - at least for 2010.
Nell Greenfieldboyce, NPR News.
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