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  • Top Story Replay -- Opportunity Lies Ahead for Women's Ski Jumpers


    04/16/11

    (ATR) Women’s ski jump pioneer Lindsey Van tells Around the Rings her sport will gain valuable exposure from its newfound Olympic status as well as next winter’s inaugural World Cup schedule.
    Lindsey Van during this winter's Nordic world championships, just the second to include women's ski jump. (U.S. Ski Team)

    “It was another big step that we took and very exciting,” Van told ATR days after the IOC Executive Board voted last week in London to add the discipline to the Winter Games program in time for Sochi 2014.

    “I think it will help get some more money and sponsorship into our sport and we’ll be seen by a lot more people. The World Cup over the next three years is a great step before the Olympics.”

    Van, 26, who was a test jumper at the 2002 Olympic men’s ski competition in her hometown of Park City, Utah and has championed the sport’s rise to Olympic status for more than a decade, is greatly looking forward to the FIS sanctioned World Cup competitions.

    Next winter’s circuit is scheduled to include competitions at 10 venues spanning eight countries. The first will take place in Lillehammer, Norway on December 3 with others staged at non-traditional sites such as Moscow; Zao, Japan; Ljubno, Slovenia and Szczyrk, Poland in addition to Germany, Italy and Austria. Midstubakken, Norway will host the season finale on March 10.

    “It is really important for us ski jumpers to have good World Cup competitions next year,” said Sarah Hendrickson, 16, the 2010 World Junior bronze medalist.

    “Even though we are in the Games, we need the sport expanding and if it progresses as it has within the last two years we should have no problem. World Cup also provides more serious competitions at better venues.”

    Van, who became her sport’s first world champion with a victory in Liberec, Czech Republic in 2009, hopes the added exposure from the sport attaining both Olympic and World Cup status will not only benefit both her and her teammates, but also ultimately be the catalyst for continued growth and development of women’s ski jumping.

    “Especially in the U.S., the sport really needed this to move forward and get funding from the USOC and some well-known corporate sponsors now that we’re in the Olympics,” said Van.

    “Hopefully, they’ll see something worthwhile in our sport.”
    Sarah Hendrickson, 16, will be eligible for the 2012 Winter Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck. (U.S. Ski Team/Marvin Kimble)

    “The Olympics are still a long ways away and a lot of things have to happen before then, but it does hopefully change the amount of funding that our team receives,” said Alissa Johnson, 23, a regular competitor on the Continental Cup for the U.S. Ski Team.

    “Hopefully, with additional funding our team will be able to receive better training, and also take a huge financial burden off each of us individual athletes.”

    The IOC’s decision to include the new sport was surely influenced by the significant level of improvement seen between the 2009 world championships in Liberec and the recently staged world championships in Oslo, Norway.

    Among the top 30 finishers in Oslo, 13 countries were represented with competitors consistently jumping between 80 and 97 meters.

    Also noteworthy was the lack of any significant mishaps or injuries despite athletes facing substantially challenging weather conditions, including high winds and thick fog.

    “The level has definitely been stepped up,” said Van in reference to the sport’s progress. “It’s good to see everybody push the level forward and it is only going to make our sport better.”
    Alissa Johnson at the 2011 backcountry.com U.S. ski jumping and Nordic combined championships in Park City, Utah. (U.S. Ski Team/Marvin Kimble)

    World Cup status for the sport is a vital move forward from the pre-existing Continental Cup circuit, a fixture since 2004 when its first events were contested in Park City, Utah.

    Women’s ski jumping will also be on the program at next January’s inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria.

    Two years later, women jumpers will compete in Sochi on the normal or 90-meter hill – the same as their male counterparts – in a sport that has been contested by men ever since the first Olympic Winter Games in Chamonix in 1924.

    “I don’t think it has set in yet, it has been the other way for so long now,” said Van about her sport’s newfound Olympic status.

    “I think the next few years are going to be a little bit intense. I’m very much looking forward to the future of our sport.”

    Written by Brian Pinelli.

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