A bid to include women's ski jumping in the 2010 Olympic program has crashed.
The International Olympic Committee approved the sport of ski cross— similar to snowboard cross— for the Vancouver Winter Games at meetings Tuesday in Kuwait City.The decision means that women's ski jumping and five other events will have to wait to be considered for 2014.
The Canadian women's team, led by 15-year-old Katie Willis and teenage teammates Atsuko Tanaka, Nata De Leeuw and Zoya Lynch, are shocked and angry at the IOC's decision.
When Willis left Calgary to train in Colorado last week, she assumed all the hard work and sacrifice would pay off with a trip to the Olympics in Vancouver in four years. But after yesterday's news, Willis was heartbroken.
"We shed some tears today, because we just thought this was going to get in, and it's not and we're all just sad about it," Willis told CBC Calgary.
Ski jumping and nordic combined are the only competitions in the Winter Olympics in which women don't participate. While the IOC is eager to have gender equity in all sports, officials said women's jumping is still too young to be made an Olympic event for 2010.
"It's still not ready," said IOC vice-president Gunilla Lindberg, noting that the first world championship in the women's ski jumping isn't scheduled until 2009. "In our analysis, there are not enough athletes and not enough countries. They have to work with the international ski federation and nordic combined to be ready for 2014."
Brent Morrice, the chairman of Ski Jumping Canada, called the IOC's decision short-sighted.
He said Olympic ski jumping has the support of the International Ski Federation (FIS), the Canadian Olympic Committee and the Vancouver Organizing Committee.
"Truly these girls are ready to compete, and it is the right thing to do," he said.
Eight years is a long wait to get to the Olympics, even for the teenage Willis, who is currently ranked No. 6 in the world. Five Canadian women are ranked in the top 40 in Continental Cup competition, the highest level of ski jumping for women.
"Putting all this time into it, you kind of want a payoff and you don't want to have to wait so long in the future," she said, adding that some athletes may choose to give up high-level competition because of the IOC's decision.
Ski cross appeals to youth: IOC
While Canada's women's ski jumpers were disappointed, the country's ski cross team was ecstatic.
Canada has approximately 20-30 athletes competing at an elite level in international ski cross, a discipline that has yet to receive funding from Sport Canada.
The IOC said it chose ski cross for its "strong appeal for the younger generation."
Like snowboard cross, which debuted at the 2006 Torino Olympics,ski crossinvolves groups of skiers racing against each other to the bottom of a course complete with jumps, banks, curves andotherartificial and natural elements.
Ski cross has been a part of FIS's World Cup freestyle circuit, which also includes the Olympic events of aerials and moguls.
Canada's Aleisha Cline is the top skier, male or female,at the World X-Games, with three gold medals to her credit (1999, 2001, 2002).
The 36-year-old from Whistler, B.C., also has six medals at the World Cup level (two gold, two silver and two bronze).
Other events turned down by the IOC on Tuesday were a team competition in alpine skiing, bobsleigh, skeleton and luge, a mixed relay in biathlon, and mixed doubles in curling.