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Meaghan Reid of Calgary; Lindsey Van, of Park City, Utah; Karla Keck, of Oconomowoc, Wisc.; and Jessica Jerome, of Park City, Utah, challenged their exclusion from the 2010 Winter Olympics at the British Columbia Supreme Court. (DARRYL DYCK/Darryl Dyck/ THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Meaghan Reid of Calgary; Lindsey Van, of Park City, Utah; Karla Keck, of Oconomowoc, Wisc.; and Jessica Jerome, of Park City, Utah, challenged their exclusion from the 2010 Winter Olympics at the British Columbia Supreme Court. (DARRYL DYCK/Darryl Dyck/ THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Olympic achievement

Spirits soar for women ski jumpers Add to ...

Women ski jumpers won the hearts of the public but little else in their long, high-profile quest to compete at the 2010 Winter Games.

Now, finally, their sport has achieved a major international breakthrough that could well secure its place at the Winter Olympics in 2014.

The International Ski Federation has approved a premiere World Cup circuit for women ski jumpers - starting next year - that would provide the world-class competition officials said they needed before being allowed into the Olympics.

Charlotte Mitchell of Calgary, at 15 already a veteran of eight years ski jumping, was one of a score of international women ski jumpers who challenged their Olympic exclusion in B.C. Supreme Court.

Yesterday, she could barely contain her glee at news of the pending World Cup.

"I was just so excited, when I heard. I'm ecstatic," Ms. Mitchell said. "After all our hard work, our sport is starting to move forward. We are finally getting somewhere."

Deedee Corradini, president of Women's Ski Jumping USA, who has spearheaded the fight to end ski jumping's status as the only Winter Olympic discipline to exclude women, said she believes the World Cup circuit is the final step needed to end their Olympic ban.

"It means we're in the major leagues," Ms. Corradini said. "The signs are really positive for 2014. We may have lost the battle [to be part of the 2010 Winter Games] but we are going to win the war.

"It's just taking us a little longer than we expected."

Until now, women ski jumpers have competed in a lesser series of events known as the Continental Cup, which generates little publicity.

Reigning world champion Lindsey Van of the United States, one of many ski jumpers in tears when the court ruled it had no jurisdiction to overturn the women's exclusion from the Olympics, said a World Cup is exactly what the female jumpers need.

Burnt out from 20 years of ski jumping and the prolonged fight to get into the 2010 Olympics, Ms. Van, 25, did not compete in the last Continental Cup.

But now, the thought of competing at the World Cup level has buoyed her resumption of training. "This is great news for us. Definitely. We're moving forward."

Ms. Corradini said the major problem facing the women ski jumpers at the moment is money. Not making the Olympics prompted their funding to virtually dry up.

"We are broke," she declared." "We are even behind paying our coach. It's a huge issue. But a World Cup would mean television coverage and money, a big help."

A World Cup for women ski jumpers could also be a boost for the state-of-the-art Olympic ski jumps at Whistler.

So far, there are no plans for the elegant structures, beyond leaving them in place as a permanent legacy. If funding were in place, Whistler would be a natural for World Cup competitions.

Ms. Mitchell, meanwhile, is already training hard for the coming season, with her hopes fixed squarely on the 2014 Winter Games.

"That would be a dream come true for me. I'm planning to stay in this sport for lots of years to come, and I know I'll get to the Olympics one day," the Grade 10 student said. "I've just got to keep working hard."

There's nothing like ski jumping, Ms. Mitchell said.

"It's just like you're flying in the air. It's one of the most sensational feelings, ever. It's awesome."

 

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