Female ski jumpers earn wings

  • Article by: RACHEL BLOUNT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 11, 2014 - 7:12 AM

Female ski jumpers were scoffed at for years. But through the efforts of a dedicated group, they will finally take flight in the Winter Games.

– When Jessica Jerome brought home the brochure, her father could think of only one thing: the iconic opening of “ABC’s Wide World of Sports,’’ defining the agony of defeat with a clip of a ski jumper’s horrifying crash. Her mother had a much different reaction.

The ski-jumping classes Jerome wanted to try would cost $60 for five weeks. “My dad said no,’’ Jerome recalled. “My mom said, ‘That’s cheaper than babysitting. You’re in.’ ’’

That would be the last time Jerome would hear those two words for a long, long time. After learning the basics of ski jumping as a second-grader, she rose to become one of the top women in the sport — which was akin to being the best ice sculptor in Death Valley. Ski jumping, a fixture of the Olympics since 1924, was closed to women at the Winter Games, and most everyplace else as well.

Seeing his daughter launch off a ramp and float through the air changed Peter Jerome’s mind. Frustrated that she and her fellow competitors had few opportunities, he bought a copy of the book “Nonprofits for Dummies’’ and began Women’s Ski Jumping USA. After waging a long, emotional battle to allow women to jump in the Olympics, the little group finally got what it wanted in 2011.

They were in. Tuesday, Jerome, former world champion Lindsey Van and current world champion Sarah Hendrickson will represent the U.S. in a new version of an old sport, as women’s ski jumping makes its Olympic debut in Sochi.

“I was confident this day would come,’’ said 27-year-old Jerome, a 10-time U.S. champion who won the Olympic trials in December. “We were, I guess, too much of a force to be reckoned with. But I didn’t know when.

“I’m humbled and thrilled to be here. I’m excited to be representing Team USA, but I’m also excited to be representing women’s ski jumping. We’re all thrilled to show the world what we have. It was a long, uphill battle.’’

An uphill battle

Jerome and Van both said it is impossible to describe the sensation of gliding down the ramp and soaring through the air. They both agree that it is unlike anything else, which is why they worked so hard to see the sport recognized at the highest level.

Through most of their careers, they have had little funding or support, save from their families and the organization that Peter Jerome and his wife, Barbara, started. Nor did they have much respect from some of the sport’s elite. In 2005, several years after women began petitioning for Olympic inclusion, a member of the International Ski Federation said ski jumping “seems not to be appropriate for the ladies from a medical point of view.’’

Van heard it put more bluntly. “[It was said] that it would damage our reproductive system, or that our uterus would fall out,’’ she said. “I heard that multiple times.’’

The federation finally voted in 2006 to recommend that women be allowed to jump in the Olympics. The International Olympic Committee proved to be an even harder sell. Despite its stated commitment to gender equality, it would not add women’s ski jumping to the Winter Games program, saying too few women from too few countries were participating at the elite level.

Van, Jerome and other jumpers filed a lawsuit in the hopes of getting the sport into the 2010 Vancouver Games. A British Columbia Supreme Court judge ruled that the IOC was discriminating against women but said the court could not order it to add women’s jumping to the Olympics.

IOC opens the door

Jerome went to Vancouver to watch a friend compete, then left early because it felt like a party to which she was not invited. Van, 29, who won the first women’s world championship in 2009, grew weary of talking about the fight for inclusion.

But they weren’t about to give up. The IOC finally relented in 2011, but it did not grant women full equality at the Olympics. In Sochi, they will have an individual competition on the normal hill, while the men have two individual events — on the normal hill and the large hill — and a team competition.

The Olympics will showcase two of the sport’s young stars. Hendrickson, 19, won the gold medal at the 2013 world championships; Japan’s Sara Takanashi, 17, won the silver. Since the women’s World Cup circuit began in 2011-12, the two have combined to win 32 of the 43 events. Takanashi has won 10 of 13 contests this season, while Hendrickson tore a knee ligament last August and will make her season debut in Sochi.

Van said that even now, with Olympic status and a world championship, she does not feel that women’s ski jumping has been fully accepted by European sporting traditionalists. In her mind, the best way to change that is to soar as far as possible with the world watching on Tuesday.

  • related content

  • Chart: Three things to know about women's ski jumping

    Monday February 10, 2014

    Three things to know about women’s ski jumping1 The first world championships were held in 2009 and won by American...

  • Kessel's line leads U.S. women in shutout of Swiss

    Tuesday February 11, 2014

    The Gophers forward had two goals and two assists as the U.S. secured a semifinal berth.

  • Photo gallery: Women's hockey: USA 9, Switzerland 0

    Monday February 10, 2014

    For the second game in a row at the Sochi Olympics, the U.S. women’s hockey team faced one of...

  • Not for a medal yet, U.S. and Canada set to renew rivalry

    Tuesday February 11, 2014

    When the U.S. and Canada face off Wednesday in women's hockey, a medal won’t be at stake but momentum will.

  • Scoggins: Shuster has rough start on road to redemption

    Tuesday February 11, 2014

    The U.S. mean's curling team and skip John Shuster came up short in the opener vs. Norway and again in its second match against China.

  • Photo gallery: Men's curling: Norway 7, USA 4

    Monday February 10, 2014

    Norway defeated the U.S. in men's curling at the Sochi Olympics.

  • Being straight shooters dooms U.S. curlers vs. Swiss

    Tuesday February 11, 2014

    The Americans could not get their stones to curl late.

  • Twin Cities viewers go gaga over Sochi Games

    Tuesday February 11, 2014

    In the early days of the 2014 Winter Olympics, Minnesota residents already are in contention for gold in one chest-beating category: biggest fans.

  • Photo gallery: Feb. 10: Women's super-combined highlights

    Monday February 10, 2014

    Highlights from the women's super-combined ski event, which tests racers' all-around ability to be fast and technically correct, proved...

  • The Minnesotans in the Games

    Monday February 10, 2014

    The MinnesotansMen’s hockeyDavid Backes, Blaine/Minnesota State Mankato; Justin Faulk, South St. Paul/Minnesota Duluth; Phil Kessel, Gophers; Paul Martin, Elk River/Gophers;...

  • Italy's Evelyn Insam soared past the Olympic rings during a women's normal hill ski jumping training at the 2014 Winter Olympics on Monday.

  • Japan’s Sara Takanashi makes an attempt during a women’s normal hill ski jumping training at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.

  • Japan's Sara Takanashi speeds down the track during a women's ski jumping training session at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

  • Japan’s Sara Takanashi, just 17 years old, is one of the biggest stars on the women’s ski-jumping circuit. She finished first in two of three training rounds on Monday.

  • Sarah Hendrickson of the United States won gold at the 2013 world championships but is still recovering from a serious knee injury.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Chicago WSox - WP: S. Carroll 6 FINAL
Cleveland - LP: Z. McAllister 2
Atlanta - WP: M. Minor 11 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - LP: E. Jackson 6
NY Yankees - WP: S. Greene 3 FINAL
Baltimore - LP: C. Tillman 0
Arizona - WP: W. Miley 2 FINAL
San Francisco - LP: R. Vogelsong 0
St. Louis - WP: A. Wainwright 10 FINAL
Milwaukee - LP: J. Nelson 2
Miami - LP: M. Dunn 4 FINAL
NY Mets - WP: V. Black 5
Boston - LP: J. Peavy 2 FINAL
Houston - WP: J. Fields 3
Minnesota - WP: K. Correia 9 FINAL
Colorado - LP: T. Matzek 3
Toronto - LP: D. Hutchison 3 FINAL
Tampa Bay - WP: J. Odorizzi 10
Detroit - WP: R. Porcello 5 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: J. Shields 1
Washington 3 Top 10th Inning
Philadelphia 3
Pittsburgh 5 Top 11th Inning
Cincinnati 5
LA Angels - WP: J. Weaver 5 FINAL
Texas - LP: M. Mikolas 2
San Diego 0 Bottom 4th Inning
Los Angeles 0
Oakland 0 Top 4th Inning
Seattle 1
Colorado 3 FINAL
Philadelphia 3
Houston 2 FINAL
Toronto FC 4
Columbus 1 FINAL
Red Bull New York 4
Chicago 1 FINAL
New England 0
Sporting Kansas City 2 FINAL
Montreal 1
Chivas USA 0 2nd Half
Vancouver FC 1
Real Salt Lake 0 1st Half 23:00
Los Angeles 1
Winnipeg 34 FINAL
Montreal 33
Ottawa 11 FINAL
Edmonton 27
Calgary 34 FINAL
Toronto 15
Brt Columbia 14
Saskatchewan 13
Edmonton 7/17/14 7:30 PM
Winnipeg
Toronto 7/18/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Hamilton 7/18/14 9:00 PM
Calgary
Montreal 7/19/14 6:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Atlanta 93 FINAL
Indiana 74
Washington 91 FINAL
Tulsa 74

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: What are you most looking forward to during All-Star festivities?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close