Female ski jumpers lose appeal

Female ski jumpers from Canada and the U.S. hoping to have their event included in the 2010 Olympics have lost their case before the B.C. Court of Appeal.

B.C. court won't compel Olympic event

Female ski jumpers from Canada and the U.S. hoping to have their event included in the 2010 Olympics have lost their case before the B.C. Court of Appeal.

The appeal was dismissed in a unanimous decision Friday in Vancouver after two days of hearings.

The Appeal Court judges stood by the decision of the B.C. Supreme Court in July. In that ruling, Justice Lauri Ann Fenlon said that while it was discriminatory to exclude the women's event, Vancouver's Olympic organizing committee (VANOC) could not be held responsible.

The skiers had argued that VANOC should have been compelled to stage a women's ski jump event — even though it was not sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) — because VANOC is subject to Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms, with its guarantees of gender equality.

After the ruling was announced, the women said they were devastated and hadn't decided what their next course of action would be.

"I thought they would go the other way, for sure," reigning world champion ski jumper Lindsay Van of Utah said as she wiped away tears. "I thought we had a very good argument that was very much set and it didn't seem it would go the other direction."

'Like Taliban of Olympics'

"The Canadian court system is weak," Van added. "They can't even stand up to the IOC. [The IOC] can come in here and do whatever they want. That's scary. It's like the Taliban of the Olympics."

The women could seek leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, but that process would take months. The Winter Olympics begin Feb. 12.

"I'm not going to commit to anything, but I think it's very late," said Ross Clark, the lawyer for the women.

The Appeal Court judges did not give reasons for their decision but said a written version of their reasons will be issued next week.

Vancouver Games organizers said they were glad the process was over, but they were sad for the women.

"I don't like these kinds of days. We are, first and foremost, men and women of sport and we believe in athletics," said John Furlong, VANOC's chief executive.

"This is a matter that's been far from our reach and our influence and we simply didn't have any jurisdiction here.… These girls have tried very hard, they have put up a very good fight."

The IOC voted in 2006 not to include women's ski jumping at the Games, saying the sport had not met the required technical criteria.

With files from The Canadian Press