Women’s ski jumpers soar into history books
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — The long road for inclusion of women’s ski jumping in the Olympics reached an end Tuesday when Sarah Hendrickson, of Park City, Utah, launched off the K-95 jump at the Rus-Ski Gorki Ski Jumping Center.
She soared 94 meters — not especially impressive, but a symbolic victory for the American families who led the fight for women to be given an opportunity to compete.
“It’s a privilege to be a part of this,” Hendrickson said. “It’s an amazing day.”
Hendrickson, 19, is the reigning world champion who battled back from a devastating knee injury last August to compete at the Sochi Winter Olympics. But the knee was still giving her pain, and that affected her result. Hendrickson finished 21st.
The other Americans, Jessica Jerome and Lindsey Van, were plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed against the organizers of the Vancouver Olympics to include women’s ski jumping. The suit was unsuccessful, but the International Olympic Committee decided to add the event in 2011.
On Tuesday, Jerome finished 10th; Van was 15th.
“I didn’t really think of the history and the fight to get here,” Van said after the event. “I’m here, and that’s all I really care about. I’m going forward, our sport is going forward, we’re the same, and we can call ourselves Olympians. I couldn’t do that yesterday.”
Van, who won the first women’s World Championship, in 2009, seemed to be pleased with her result. Or perhaps she didn’t care about it.
“It’s the first time in a long time I can be happy without looking at the numbers,” she said. “It felt good. I had fun, and that’s all I really care about at this point. I enjoyed myself, and that was the goal. I got 15th at the Olympics. I’ll take it. It was my best ever Olympic performance.”
German Carina Vogt won the gold, jumping 103 meters on her first jump and 97.5 on her second. Silver and bronze went to Daniela Iraschko-Stolz, of Austria, and Coline Mattell, of France.
Vogt has never won a World Cup event. Heavy favorite Sara Takanashi, of Japan, a 17-year-old who has won 15 of the last 20 World Cups, came in fourth.
Almost all of the 7,500 seats were filled on a chilly night at the venue that is built into the northern slope of Aibga Ridge.
“I am genuinely happy to be here, and all the other girls are happy to be here,” Jerome, 27, said. “There’s a camaraderie that all of the girls share, even from the other countries, because we’ve all been fighting the same fight for so many years. At the top of the jump we’re high-fiving Norwegians, Canadians and Finns. Everybody was just really happy.”
The female American jumpers say their fight isn’t over yet. They want the K-120 large hill to be included for women, too.
The veteran Van, 29, has remained in ski jumping for a chance to compete in the Olympics. But, after her Olympic debut on Tuesday, she didn’t rule out sticking around another four years to continue to be a trailblazer.
“I’ve come this far in the sport. Why not?” Van said. “There’s a lot more that needs to be done. If I can help that out a little bit, I’ll help it out.”