ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
We're going to spend the next few minutes on Sochi and one sport in particular, the ski jump. Women's ski jumping will make its Olympic debut there next year. That is after more than a decade of lobbying. Over the weekend, the first woman earned a spot on the U.S. Olympic team. Jessica Jerome is 27 years old and she's from Park City, Utah, where the trials were held on Sunday. NPR's Tamara Keith was there.
TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Ski jumping has been an Olympic sport since the advent of the Winter Olympics - that is men's ski jumping. But for women, who often soar just as far if not farther than the men, it has been a fight, a fight that took them to a Canadian courtroom and was marked with years of setbacks. They were told again and again women's ski jumping wasn't at a high enough caliber to be in the games.
Deedee Corradini is the former mayor of Salt Lake City and president of Women's Ski Jumping USA.
DEEDEE CORRADINI: For years and years, these athletes have had to go to the Olympics and watch their brothers or the boys that they have trained with since they were five and six years old walk into that Olympic stadium and jump, and they were always on the sidelines.
KEITH: Corradini is among a group of volunteers and parents who have led the charge to get the sport included in the Olympics. To her, it just never made sense that women wouldn't be included given the caliber of the female jumpers. Many of them grew up training on the ski jump in Park City, Utah, and were inspired by the Olympics hosted here in 2002.
CORRADINI: Jessica and Lindsey were the fore jumpers in the 2002 Olympics to make sure the jumps were safe enough for the men. And it's taken us 12 years to get the women into the Olympics since 2002.
KEITH: That would be Jessica Jerome and Lindsey Van who finished first and second in yesterday's trials surrounded by the largest crowd to attend an event at the Utah Olympic Park since 2002, when they were just teenagers. Jerome says that in the locker room before the event, their coach gave them a pep talk.
JESSICA JEROME: He's like, girls, all these people are out here for you, and you may not realize, but, like, this is historic, like, this has never happened before, so just embrace it and enjoy it. And I thought that was pretty cool.
KEITH: The sky overhead was the brightest of blues as they made their jumps, sliding down a 90-meter ramp, then lifting off, bodies leaning forward perfectly straight, skis forming a V. Van came into the competition favored to place first but dealing with some back pain. Jerome simply out-jumped her.
JEROME: It's really great to be able to only focus on being an athlete now.
KEITH: Because for so long Jerome and the others were fighting the fight just to get their sport in the games.
JEROME: I mean, I was always saying when we were doing all that court stuff and trying to be advocates for the sport, all I wanted to do was train. And in retrospect, of course it was a good thing that we were doing it and I'm happy that we did that, but all I ever wanted to do was just be an athlete.
KEITH: Jerome's dad, Peter Jerome, says his daughter hasn't always been at the top of the podium, but she kept at it, pushing herself to be better. He was one of the founding members of Women's Ski Jumping USA and has been deeply involved in both the fight for equality and in fundraising, since the sport has gotten little support over the years. Coming into these first-ever trials, he says he already felt a great sense of accomplishment.
PETER JEROME: You know, I felt like we already won, you know, no matter who wins, we already won. A great crowd, great weather, great venue, great calm, you know, but, yeah, I am happy to see my daughter win.
KEITH: But, getting a little choked up, he says the best part is yet to come.
JEROME: When 30 women from 15 countries march into Sochi, that's cool.
KEITH: Over the coming weeks, as many as three more American women will earn a chance to compete at the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. Tamara Keith, NPR News, Park City, Utah.
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