AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) — They were the Cinderella story of the Sochi Olympics, the ladies ski jumpers who were finally permitted to compete in the Games after a years-long struggle for equality. They had made it a court battle, proved their own athletic prowess and knocked back again endless excuses for why they will couldn’t compete – including the recommendation that their reproductive organs may somehow be obliterated upon getting.

And yet four years later, among the seismic cultural revolution within women’s rights, women ski jumpers at the Pyeongchang Olympics still end up fighting for parity. While the ladies are permitted to compete in a single event – the normal hill — the men get three: the conventional hill, the large hill and a group event.

“It’s like, ‘Here, we will give you a little piece, ‘ after which, ‘Go away, leave us alone, ‘” says Lindsey Van, the now-retired American ski jumper who assisted lead a discrimination lawsuit to obtain women jumpers into the Games. “I still think that it’s an old boys’ club. ”

In many ways, the guard parity in ski jumping will be emblematic of women’s fight for similar treatment across the Olympics: a process each plodding and frustrating to top notch athletes repeatedly forced to prove they may be worthy of competing at the top.

“Sports goes to all humanity, ” says Global Olympic Committee Vice President Anita DeFrantz, who has waged a decades-long effort to boost gender equality within the Olympics. “There’s no reason in order to exclude women from any sports activity. ”


The particular IOC has indeed boosted possibilities for women and is aiming for an equal quantity of male and female competitors simply by 2020. Yet gender equality continues to be elusive. Just four of the IOC’s 15 executive board members are usually women.

At Pyeongchang, women possess six fewer medal events compared to men. In several sports, women are usually limited to shorter courses; In acceleration skating, for example , the longest program for men is 10, 000 metres. For women, it’s just 5, 1000 meters.

And though many women ski jumpers have trained for years on the big hill, they are relegated at Pyeongchang to the smaller hill. Meanwhile, you can find zero events for women in skiing jumping’s sister sport, Nordic mixed.

The disparities, DeFrantz says, are usually “absolutely illogical. ”

DeFrantz gained a bronze medal in rowing at the 1976 Olympics, the first calendar year women rowers competed at the Online games. At the time, the women were limited to the 1, 000 meter course, as the men raced 2, 000 metres – even though the women were taught to race 2, 000. Women were unable permitted to race the same range as men until the 1988 Olympics in Seoul.

Why were females shut out of the longer course?

“I don’t know. It was all men that made the decision, ” DeFrantz says. “And sadly, that continues in some sports activities. And it’s just time for them, otherwise the women in the sport, to say ‘OK, time’s up. We can do this. ‘”


The fallacy that women are too sensitive for sports has existed because the dawn of the Games. In 1896, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the particular founder of the modern Olympic motion, stated: “No matter how toughened a sportswoman may be, her patient is not cut out to sustain specific shocks. ”

Though science offers debunked that notion over the hundreds of years, such an excuse was used to maintain women out of the Olympic marathon till 1984. And it played a role within the ski jumping battle.

In 1991, the IOC ruled that both males and females must be allowed to participate in all long term Olympic sports. But sports that will existed prior to 1991 – which includes ski jumping – were exempt.

Women jumpers began petitioning to participate the Winter Olympics in 1998. The reason why they were given as to why they could not were, at times, ludicrous.

“Don’t neglect, it’s like jumping down through, let’s say, about two meters on the floor about a thousand times a year, which usually seems not to be appropriate for girls from a medical point of view, ” Global Ski Federation president Gian Franco Kasper said in a 2005 job interview with National Public Radio.

Within 2006, the IOC said presently there weren’t enough women jumpers through enough countries competing internationally in order to justify an Olympic event. At that time, though, there were more women from a lot more countries competing internationally in skiing jumping than in several other women’s Olympic sports.

Besides, the women argued, when the IOC allowed them to compete, ladies would be motivated to take up the sports activity.

Many were left wondering if this all came down to a case of machismo.

“It was the original extreme sports activity, ” Van says. “And if you all of a sudden add women to it, could it be as extreme? ”

Laura Hillsides, an expert in gender inequalities within sport at Brunel University Greater london, says while few would acknowledge it publicly, some still notice sports as a man’s domain.

“There does seem to be a fear that when women do all the same things, after that men lose some of their prestige plus power, ” Hills says. “It’s kind a male badge associated with honor, isn’t it? As in, exactly where do men go from there? inch


Vehicle and the other women jumpers had been wondering where they could go by themselves. The answer, they decided, was in order to court.

In 2008, Van plus a group of women jumpers from 5 countries sued the Vancouver Arranging Committee for the right to compete within the 2010 Vancouver Games.

While their own male peers got to focus on coaching, the women arranged court dates plus media interviews about sexism close to their practice time. American jumper Jessica Jerome remembers being 1 week away from a competition in European countries and having to squeeze in a courtroom appearance.

“I was in a hotel room within Vancouver putting makeup on plus a collared shirt so I could move sit in a courtroom and I had been pissed, ” Jerome says. “All I want to do is just be a good athlete, and I was envious associated with everybody else who never had to handle that. All they ever had to try and do was train hard and knuckle down and focus on their own performance… that they had this path already set up. And didn’t. ”

Though the lawsuit eventually failed, the IOC finally decided amid an avalanche of harmful publicity to add one women’s skiing jumping event – the normal slope – to the Sochi program.

The ladies had hoped to be allowed to contend in all three jumping events simply by Pyeongchang. That has not happened.

In terms of Nordic combined, a blend of skiing jumping and cross-country, those combating for gender equality have made welcome some recent developments: Women taken part in a Nordic combined U. Ersus. national championships in October, as well as the first women’s Nordic combined Ls Cup was held last month.


The sex gap stretches beyond the Olympics. Ski jumping, like many sports activities, pays men far more than females.

Under the official rules of the Global Ski Federation, which sets the particular minimum amount of prize money for that World Cup, the first place man jumper gets more than three times the actual winning woman receives. The skiing federation’s rules also stipulate that will men receive “pocket money”; simply no such provision exists for women. Plus men receive up to four periods more travel reimbursement money compared to women.

“The prize money difference is absurd in this day and age, inch says Laura Sankey, president associated with Women’s Ski Jumping USA. “An elite ski jumper, whether a guy or a woman, dedicates themselves in order to being their best and should be paid equally. ”

Jenny Wiedeke, the ski federation spokeswoman, says the girls hopes to get women equal reward money in future seasons, though the lady said there is no timeline.

“Essentially the reason behind the discrepancy is due to the difference within sponsorship, TV and spectator income for the organizers, making it difficult so they can support the men’s prize cash payments for the ladies’ competitions whilst staying within their budgets, ” Wiedeke said by e-mail. “The girl’s tour is still quite new but still establishing itself in the above locations. ”

Sankey dismisses that disagreement. She draws a parallel in order to startups, where founders invest in facilities and staff before seeing money. With equal economics, she states, the women’s tour could develop, bringing in more spectators, sponsors plus revenue. As it stands, women should essentially fund themselves.

Whether ladies finally achieve true parity within the sport depends on how hard they maintain pushing, says Van, who appears back on her legacy of battling for equality with pride within the outcome and frustration that the lady had to fight at all.

“It’s unlucky that it takes that much energy through so many people to do the right thing, inch she says. “It’s kind of like this particular slow process. But slow is preferable to none. ”

Follow Kristen Gelineau on Twitter at @KristenGelineau. More AP Olympic coverage: https://wintergames.ap.org/