Women Get the Olympic Ski Jump, But Not Without Controversy

Tomorrow, thirty women (ten of whom will be competing for the US) will make history competing in the very first Olympic Women's Ski Jumping event. Because apparently it takes at least 10 years or hard work to offer an event that has been included on the Olympic roster since the very first Winter Olympics in 1924.

Since 2004, president of Women's Ski Jumping USA Dee Corradini and ski jumper Lindsey Van (who will be competing tomorrow for the US) have been working to make women's ski jump an official event. Of course they were met with the same justification that there wasn't enough interest as well as some sexist faux-concern. The US Ski and Snowboard Federation as well as the International Ski Federation did not endorse Corradini and Van's campaign because women's ski jumping was not "appropriate for ladies from a medical point of view."

No, really. People were concerned that after enough flying 80+ meters and landing (which makes the cartilage in my knees melt just thinking about), a woman athletes reproductive organs could be displaced. Liz Clarke at the Washington Post reports, Van is very familiar with the misconception:

"I've had people ask me had my uterus fallen out yet," Van said, recounting the litany of arguments marshaled against women's ski jumping. "I heard that multiple times; it was comical. And embarrassing — not so much for me but for whoever said it."

Of course health is of concern, but COME ON. All Olympic athletes face a huge range of injuries—it's occupational hazard that invokes an entirely different discussion. But after some self-funded competitions, a discrimination lawsuit, and a growing awareness of the event, the International Olympic Committee finally conceded in April 2011 and accepted women's ski jumping for the 2014 Olympics.

While the women are still restricted to competing on the "normal hill" (men can compete on the normal and the large hill) it is still a triumph for the 30 women taking off tomorrow.

Image via AP.