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Amid all the amazing athletic performances taking place at the Sochi Winter Olympics there is something quite astonishing – the first-ever women's ski jump competition.
When women jumped at Sochi this week – albeit on the small hill versus the big hill – they were the first women to do so in the history of the Winter Games. Men's ski jumping has been part of the Winter Games since 1924. For well over a decade women have been working for the right to compete in Olympic ski jumping and have met with steadfast resistance. And during that same time, the Winter Games have expanded to new extreme sports which are co-ed sports, versus single sex.
The history of the fight to include women's ski jumping is fraught with missteps, including a 2005 interview with International Ski Federation president and International Olympics Committee (IOC) member Gian Franco Kasper, who said women's ski jumping "seems not to be appropriate from a medical point of view."
Other more ridiculous arguments against women's ski jumping were advanced, including the suggestion that ski jumping would damage women's reproductive systems. An interesting argument given that a woman's reproductive system can handle the stress of pregnancy not to mention giving birth.
In 2006, the IOC denied women's ski jumping a spot at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. In 2008, female jumpers from around the world sued the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the right to compete in the 2010 Winter Games.
The British Columbia Supreme Court said the IOC showed gender discrimination by keeping women's ski jumping out of the Olympics, but it could not force the IOC to add the event to the Vancouver Games.
The women ski jumpers persevered and in the spring of 2011 the IOC relented, bringing us the first-ever women's Olympic ski jumping this week.
You wouldn't think this would be a fight that needed to be fought when we're over a decade into the 21st century.
Congratulations to the women who competed in the first women's Olympic ski jumping competition this week. Hopefully, the IOC will let you on the big hill during the next Winter Games.