The Sochi Network

One last hurdle for remains for Olympic gender equality

The Sochi Network

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Sarah Hendrickson jumps during the Ladies' Normal Hill Individual first round at the RusSki Gorki Ski Jumping Center. …

Canadian Taylor Henrich basked in the aftermath of the history-making Olympic ski jump competition on Tuesday and proclaimed, "We're all equal now."

Yes and no. Women are certainly equal in Olympic ski jumping for the first time ever, but there's still one winter sport where women do not compete.

That sport is Nordic Combined.

The "combined" name comes from the blend of cross-country skiing and ski jump – the ultimate grind and the ultimate thrill. A few of the women ski jumpers asked about the sport on Tuesday shied away from the idea of doing both. But Henrich, a self-described "crazy Canuck," did not.

"I love cross-country skiing," the Calgary native said. "It'd be so cool to do both."

[LINK: Amazing cross-country skier wins gold despite broken foot]

Another vote in favor is one of the more powerful voices in the sport: Norwegian coach Kristian Hammer. Norway has owned Nordic Combined like the Americans own basketball, winning 26 total medals coming into these Games.

That's as much as the total of the next two nations, Finland and Austria.

"They are more than welcome," Hammer said by phone Thursday when asked his thoughts about including women.

Women already compete in cross-country skiing, so the holdup has been the stubbornness (and misogyny) of the International Olympic Committee on including ski jump in the Winter Games.

Now that that barrier has been removed, it's a matter of finding athletes who are willing to do both sports simultaneously and then petitioning the IOC if enough women show interest.

[LINK: Dating app causing mayhem by distracting athletes in Sochi]

"The biggest reason is that Nordic doesn't have too many athletes," Hammer said. "You don't find too many who can handle it."

That's not a slight against women; it's the truth about Nordic Combined. It's difficult for everyone. There were only 54 Olympic athletes in the sport in 2010. "We just need some time," he said.

Hammer said he'd be willing to train any young athlete, male or female. "That's no problem," he said.

It's no problem because he's open-minded. But it's also no problem because including women in Nordic Combined might very well boost Norway's already-booming medal count.

There were only two countries with two top-10 finishers in Tuesday's women's ski jump: Japan and, of course, Norway.

Eric Adelson, Yahoo!


Speaking to Reuters on Thursday, the International Olympic Committee's president Thomas Bach said he would like to see a women's event in Nordic combined after women ski jumpers took to the Olympic hill for the first time in Sochi.

Nordic combined, comprising cross-country skiing and ski jumping, is the last male-only competition at the Winter Olympics. Judging by the instant popularity of women's ski jumping and 11 other new disciplines in Sochi, a women's version would be equally successful, Bach said.

The IOC has also introduced events for slopestyle skiers and snowboarders that have grabbed the imagination of the public with exhilarating runs and gravity-defying tricks.

"We have 12 new disciplines here and to find even more spectacular ones (for the 2022 Games) - I do not know," said Bach, who was elected to the post in September 2013. "If anybody has a great idea, it is welcome.

"For a winter programme in 2022 it may be more about consolidation in one or the other way, and it may also be that we try, and this I would appreciate very much because I advocate it very much, to add one or other mixed event."

South Korea's Pyeongchang will host the 2018 Winter Games while the hosts for 2022 will be decided next year.

"Think about Nordic combined for women. We have ski jumping for women, cross country for women, so why should we not have Nordic combined because we see that they are a great success and this is a very good way to promote women's sport."

The German lawyer launched a wide-reaching review of the Games almost immediately after taking over, and some IOC members described the speed with which he wants to push through changes as "breakneck".

Bach, however, believes it is early on in his presidency when such changes to refresh the Games and win over new fans and sponsors can be ushered in, using the momentum that followed his election five months ago.

"We have to adapt to modern times. We did so in the Winter Games in the past with snowboard and moguls and we have to keep going in this direction, and I hope that in the Summer Games we can have progress and have the one or the other new sport in."

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