IOC's Heiberg wants women's ski jumping at Sochi
Women's ski jumping took a big leap toward Olympic status on Wednesday when a senior IOC member said he would recommend the sport's inclusion for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
Gerhard Heiberg, a winter sports expert who serves on the International Olympic Committee's executive board, offered his full support for bringing the women's discipline into the program.
"I hope it's included," Heiberg told The Associated Press. "I would be in favour and of course I will report this to (IOC) president (Jacques) Rogge."
The Norwegian, who returned to work Wednesday after suffering a mild heart attack last week, watched the women ski jumpers compete at the Nordic world skiing championships from his hospital bed.
Heiberg said the women's discipline has made major strides since the IOC decided against introducing the sport at last year's Vancouver Games.
"I was not very positive after what I saw two years ago at the world championships in Liberec, but today I am of another opinion," Heiberg said.
Rogge will decide in April whether to add the sport to the Sochi program.
Heiberg was impressed by the quality of jumps at Friday's competition, which was won by Daniela Iraschko of Austria. Competing in heavy fog and strong winds, she won with two jumps of 97 metres.
Several of the women had soared over 100 metres in training during the week, but the extreme weather limited jumps in the final.
"I think there has been a great improvement," Heiberg said. "Fifteen nations took part, the quality was pretty good in the conditions they had, and there was not too much distance between the first one and the 10- 15 best ones."
The IOC twice turned down women's ski jumping for inclusion in Vancouver, saying the sport lacked enough elite competitors. Women jumpers took their case all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, but failed to overturn the IOC decision.
Ski jumping and Nordic Combined, which features ski jumping and cross-country skiing, are the only Winter Olympic events open only to men.
At a meeting in Acapulco, Mexico, in October, the IOC board said it looked "favourably" on women's ski jumping and six other proposed new events but put off a final decision until after this winter's world championships. The board gave Rogge the mandate to make the final ruling himself.
Also up for consideration by the IOC are slopestyle events in snowboard and Alpine freestyle, ski halfpipe, mixed relay in biathlon, and team events in figure skating and luge.
The 71-year-old Heiberg had surgery at an Oslo hospital last Thursday after experiencing heart problems during a ski trip.
Heiberg was president of the organizing committee of the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer. Besides serving on the IOC's executive board, he is also chairman of the marketing commission.
Heiberg had planned to attend the women's ski jumping event at the Holmenkollen arena but didn't think he had missed much by watching on television.
"I saw just as much as the spectators because of the fog," Heiberg said. "In fact, I think I saw more."
He said he felt good after his operation and would try to make it to some of the remaining events at the worlds, which run through Sunday.
"I'm doing fine, I am recovering very well and am more or less back in action," he said.