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Women’s ski jumping makes its Olympic debut thanks to push from Canadians

Canada's Atsuko Tanaka lands after an attempt during a women's normal hill ski jumping training at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.

Dmitry Lovetsky/AP

History will be made Tuesday, when women compete in their first Olympic ski jumping event since the sport was introduced for men only in the 1924 Games.

Canada will field three women: Alexandra Pretorius, Taylor Henrich and Atsuko Tanaka. While none is favoured to win, each is a trailblazer and has been yearning to compete in the Olympics for years.

Canadian women played an instrumental role in pushing the International Olympic Committee to join the modern era and allow women to compete in ski jumping.

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One of them was Katie Willis, now 22, who was Canada's top female jumper before she called it quits in 2010 to pursue an education.

As many as 15 women, including Willis, her mother, Jan, and Deedee Corradini, the former mayor of Salt Lake City (which played host to the Winter Games in 2002), sued the IOC in a Canadian court in 2009 on the basis of discrimination. Even though they won the case, it was only in 2011 the IOC got around to endorsing the sport, too late to make its debut at the Vancouver Games four years ago.

The women will be competing on the "normal" hill, not the "large" hill, though that could change in future Games as ski jumping becomes more popular among women. Two of the women who went after the IOC – Americans Lindsey Van, who was the sport's first world champion, and Jessica Jerome – will be among the competitors vying for the first medals.

The favourites are Sara Takanashi of Japan, Daniela Iraschko-Stolz of Austria, Sarah Hendrickson of the United States and Germany's Carina Vogt.

Of the three Canadians, Tanaka, who is from Calgary, is the most experienced. She is the 2006 world junior silver medalist and has been competing since she was 13. At 22, she is the old lady of the trio.

Pretorius and Henrich, who are also from Calgary, are only 18.

This is an event for the young and the fearless.

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