Day of vindication finally arrives for female ski jumpers
IOC adds six new events to Sochi program
The shrill ring of the phone snapped Zoya Lynch out of a deep sleep in the wee hours of Wednesday morning.
On the other end of the line was a reporter from CBC Radio looking for reaction on the International Olympic Committee’s approval of women’s ski jumping for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi Russia.
“I have key words I always say in interviews,” Lynch said later, still bubbling over the magnitude of the news. “I’m so accustomed to using words like ‘frustrated,’ ‘disappointed,’ and ‘sad.’ It’s about time I can use happy words, but it feels so strange.
“It’s about time, for sure. It’s been a frustrating decade, basically. But all the excitement of today has kind of washed that away.”
The 2014 Olympics will have a fresh look with Wednesday’s announcement of six new events added to the program in Sochi, including women’s ski jumping. The IOC also approved ski half-pipe (men and women), mixed relay in biathlon and team events in luge and figure skating.
“It’s such a huge relief to hear the official confirmation,” said half-pipe world champion Roz Groenewoud, of Calgary. “From talking to my coach, he says the Olympics are really not comparable to any other event in terms of excitement.
“To tell you the truth, I can’t really comprehend what it’s going to be like.”
World men’s half-pipe champion Mike Riddle, of Sherwood Park, called the decision the realization of a lifelong dream.
“I didn’t know if it was going to be yes or no,” Riddle said. “I wasn’t going to jump the gun. I was going to wait for it, so this is a huge weight off for me.
“I’m going to do everything in my power to get to Sochi and hopefully bring back a medal for Canada.”
This country just happens to be a world super power in half-pipe, especially on the women’s side.
The luge team event — led by Calgary phenom Alex Gough — also ranks as a possibility event for Canada to collect more hardware.
“For Canada — like every other nation — this opens another chance at a medal,” said head coach Wolfgang Staudinger. “In test events, we’ve won medals in the past and we even won the team event before in a World Cup event. This is a huge day for the sport of luge.”
The day proved disappointing for the folks in slopestyle (both ski and snowboard) and parallel alpine skiing — with all three events put on hold by the IOC. A final decision on those disciplines is expected some time in May.
“I think it’s very good news for slopestyle,” said an optimistic Peter Judge, chief executive of the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association. “Because this discipline requires a new venue and additional athletes, it’s obviously a big undertaking for an organizing committee, especially this late in the game.
“So the fact that they’re still considering slopestyle, to me, is a very positive sign.”
For his part, IOC president Jacques Rogge raved Tuesday about the new members of the Olympic family.
“The inclusion of these events on the Olympic Winter Games program is sure to be appreciated by athletes and sports fans alike,” he said. “These are exciting, entertaining events that perfectly complement the existing events on the sports program, bring added appeal and increase the number of women participating in the Games.
“I look forward to watching the athletes compete in these events in Sochi 2014. “
That’s a marked change in tune from the 2010 Winter Vancouver Olympics when the IOC turned down women’s ski jumping, saying the sport did not have enough elite competitors. More than a dozen female ski jumpers lobbied to compete in Vancouver, to no avail.
The women argued their human rights had been violated, as men’s ski jump was already an Olympic sport. A B.C. Supreme Court justice agreed, but said the court couldn’t overrule the IOC decision.
“I was the first Canadian plaintiff who was actually jumping at the time,” Lynch said. “I’m more happy now than anything.
“Our fight is over.”