Ski jumping was first invented in Norway in the early 1800s, and spread to its citizens quicker than the common cold. Within decades, the Nordic sport had its very first recorded ski competition in a small town called Trysil, Norway, on 22 January 1862, with the very first female ski jump winner recorded just a year later.
In Norway, at least, women have participated competitively in this sport for what some would call a really, really, really long time. A century and then some later, we have the 2014 Sochi games, which will mark the first time in history that women have been allowed to compete in ski jumping for the winter Olympics.
The recent reform to allow women the right to compete evokes thought as to why women were excluded from the event in the first place. After all, women have been able to compete in ski jumping competitions through other organizations, such as the World Cup and the U.S. National Championships. This means, perhaps, the Olympic games may not be as progressive of an organization as we may have thought.
The inequality of the games is easily disguised by the decadence of the well-orchestrated themes of the semi-annual Olympics. Elaborate themes, such as the 2010 winter Olympics “I Believe,” hit the hearts of many viewers at home who watched their heroes and countries fight for titles. “I Believe” was less of a fitting theme for the women jumpers who, after not being able to participate in the 2010 winter games, brought forward a lawsuit against the Olympic Committee for the rights to play in the 2014 winter Olympics. The women were denied their appeal by the Supreme Court in Canada, following the Vancouver games. Leaving the theme “I Believe” to be nothing but a mockery for the women who were refused their justice.
The issue caused much heat and the International Olympic Committee folded their out-of-date opinions and allowed women to play in the sport. The underlying reason as to why women haven’t been able to compete is uncertain.
Ski jumping and a sport called Nordic combination, which is cross-country ski racing mixed with ski jumping, were among two of the sports women weren’t allowed to compete in; women still can’t compete in Nordic. Debate has been on the table whether or not this has to do with potential harm for females, stated that jumping long distances and then landing could have serious repercussions for our internal organs. Gian Franco Kasper, the president of the International Ski Federation, told an NPR reporter that ski jumping “seems not to be appropriate for ladies from a medical point of view,” according to the New York Times.
This falls short of reasoning as to why, in the past, woman have been participating in wrestling, boxing, ice hockey, and weight-lifting, all of which are stereotypically male dominated sports, as well as other ski events that could equally lead to excessive harm. Not to mention the fact that women should have the right to do whatever they want with their bodies and should be allowed to participate in any sport they choose, as long as men get the same opportunity.
The idea of this sport being too dangerous is backed by completely sexist and ignorant speech. Women have been able compete in this sport in other countries and organizations elsewhere, so the Olympic Committee does not get to regulate what is right or wrong, they just have to do what is in the best interest of the world. The idea of hope, strife, and passion for a sport cannot continue when half of the people who want to participate are shunned. It would sound pretty hypocritical for an organization to pride themselves as encompassing the ideals of 2010’s “I Believe” and 2012 Summer Olympic’s “Inspire,” to then deny women a chance.
These athletes devote their lives to do something they clearly understand the risks of, and are a better judge as to what their own limits are. I think it’s obvious to say that some guy sitting behind a desk trying to tell these well-conditioned athletes that the sport “is too dangerous” for their lady parts, needs to back up why it’s okay for men to do it. You don’t see people denying men the right to cycle, despite the scientific fact that excessive friction from the seat harms sperm cells. I appreciate Kasper’s concern for women’s well-being, however his unsolicited opinions should not become the consequences for hard working people’s efforts.
There will certainly be anticipation for the 2014 games. For the first time, the world will get to witness women compete in the ski jump event and this year I will be less cynical and more likely to approve, whatever the theme. I believe this could be a test, and hopefully soon women will also be able to compete in Nordic combination as well as any other sport.