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(ATR) Women’s ski jumping will make its Winter Olympic debut in 2014, as will between four and seven other events.
Now that women's ski jumping is in the Winter Olympic program, Nordic combined is the only event to exclude women. (IOC)
The IOC announced Wednesday in London on the sidelines of SportAccord that ski halfpipe, biathlon mixed relay and team events in luge and figure skating are also secured for Sochi.
Slopestyle events in snowboard and freestyle skiing as well as an alpine team event remain up in the air after yet another postponement on the part of the IOC.
“It’s a matter of weeks,” IOC sports director Christophe Dubi said in response to a question posed by Around the Rings
“We expect by end of May or early June there will be a decision.”
Dubi added that a FIS inspection team will on the ground in Sochi at the end of April to gather more technical data, and IOC experts will follow in early May.
Jumping for Joy
Wednesday’s decision ensures ski jumping will no longer be one of the only Winter Olympic disciplines reserved for men.
Lindsey Van during her 2009 world championship run. (Getty Images)
“All in all we are very happy,” said Dubi, emphasizing the increased depth of the women’s field present at the recent world championships.
Advocates for women’s ski jumping tried but failed for a spot on the program for Vancouver, then went to court in Canada to further press the issue, again unsuccessfully.
“I’ve dedicated my life, hopes and dreams to ski jumping and I’m thrilled that our sport will be showcased at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi,” 2009 world champion Lindsey Van of the U.S. said in a statement.
“We are ready.”
Like Dubi, Luke Bodensteiner with the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association singled out this winter’s world champs as perhaps the turning point for women jumpers.
“They've proven themselves athletically,” he said in a statement, “most recently at the 2011 Nordic World Championships in Oslo with an excellent championship competition under some of the most challenging conditions possible."
Whether Rogge had to overcome objections from 2014 organizers based on the lack of women’s ski jumpers in Russia – that is, no medals for the home team – remains unclear.
“There was no discussion of that nature,” Dubi said when asked about pressure from Sochi to include – or exclude – any of the eight events up for addition to the Winter Games program.
There’s No “I” in Team
A trio of team events will make their Winter Olympic debut in 2014.
IOC president Jacques Rogge (earmuffs) joined FIL president Josef Fendt (black hat) in Latvia this winter to watch the team relay event. (FIL)
In the case of luge, federation president Josef Fendt tells Around the Rings
his sport was long overdue for an additional event.
“We were the only federation that hadn’t gotten a new discipline in the last many many years,” he told ATR
in between a morning meeting of the IOC Executive Board and Dubi’s afternoon announcement.
“Innsbruck  was the first Olympics for luge, and in Sochi we have exactly our 50-year anniversary. It’s a good present from the IOC.”
In the mixed relay, a team consists of one man, one woman and a two-person pair. Each new leg begins when an athlete hits the signaling device at the bottom of the course.
Biathlon’s new event likewise joins men and women in a mixed relay format meant to increase the level of competition – and the number of medals at stake – on the sport’s biggest stage.
“Many national federations have not four of the really high standard men in a normal relay or four women, but many of those member federations have two very strong men and two very strong women,” International Biathlon Union president Anders Besseberg told ATR
“This opens up for many more nations to fight for medals in the mixed relay.”
Besseberg added that he expects roughly 20 teams to compete in Sochi, 10 to 12 of which he said have a real shot at gold.
Such open fields could also be on display when figure skaters take the ice in Sochi for their first-ever team competition. The event puts together one man, one woman, one figure-skating pair and one ice-dancing couple into a six-person squad representing a single country. The highest combined score wins.
“I think that figure skating is an incredible sport in the winter program,” said Dubi.
“We were very [certain] this is something that will add extra value to the Olympic Program.”
Skiing for the YouTube Generation
If women’s ski jump was about gender equity and the trio of team events about universality, ski halfpipe’s inclusion was all about youth appeal.
Ski slopestyle is a Winter X Games favorite. (Getty Images)
“This is what kids do,” Dubi said. “They share their video. It is quite amazing what is happening.”
Whereas the team events by and large give existing Olympians additional chances to medal, halfpipe’s inclusion will send some skiers to Sochi to make their Winter Games debut.
"I feel honored to be considered to be in the same class as an Olympic athlete,” six-time X Games halfpipe medalist but zero-time Olympian Simon Dumont of the U.S. said in a statement.
"I hope to have the opportunity to go to Russia and make my country proud. I’ve been waiting for the chance to bring home a medal."
According to Dubi, there’s no evidence that the halfpipe is any more dangerous than other ski disciplines, a factor the IOC weighed in Wednesday's decision.
“The statistics we have from FIS show no particular worry from their standpoint,” he said, adding that the new event’s injury rate of 0.7 percent is low when compared to other Olympic mainstays.
Imagine field hockey but on a floor. That's floorball. (Getty Images)
Other EB News
Floorball is now an Olympic sport. Its federation had previously received provisional recognition from the IOC, but Wednesday's EB approval will prove key should the sport ever bid for a spot on the actual Olympic program.
Written and reported in London by Ed Hula and in Atlanta by Matthew Grayson.
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