Make or break for women’s ski jumping

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The performance of women ski jumpers at the Nordic World Ski Championships in Oslo later this month is likely to determine whether they’ll make it onto the Olympics. Crowd response may tip the decision of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), so to ensure a sufficiently festive mood, some of the tickets are being distributed free to schools and sports clubs.

Ski jumper Anette Sagen got a lot of attention when she became the first official jumper off the new Holmenkollen Ski Jump in Oslo. The women will be competing in the World Championships at Holmenkollen later this month, but off the smaller Midstuen jump. PHOTO: Sven Goll

“The Norwegian Ski Federation will be giving cash prizes after a jury has judged the various groups and the mood they manage to create,” Åsne Havnelid, head of the organization behind the World Championships (Ski VM) told newspaper Aftenposten. “The prizes are meant to find their way back to the children and youngsters by way of their clubs. We want a spirit of jubilation at the stadium. It’s time to give support to the women and not just to talk.”

Havnelid considers ski jumping to be the most important event of the Oslo Championships. “We’re talking about 1,000 out of 15,000 tickets,” Clas Brede Bråthen, of the ski federation, told Aftenposten. “If these groups apply for a  lot of tickets, the numbers may increase a little. We need this initiative, but I believe the atmosphere will be good in any case.

“The World Championships are the culmination of an important project,” Bråthen added. “Women must be able to take part in the Olympics on par with men.”

Kjell Ivar Magnussen, coach of the US women’s ski jumping team, said the sport has seen “an incredible rise in standards in recent years.” In the recent Junior World Championships,  64 jumpers from 16 nations including the US, Canada, China and Japan took part. The women had to clear 80 metres to get to the final. Their longest jump was 96.5 metres. The men had to clear 85 metres to make the final round and the longest jump by the men was 98 metres, not much of a difference.

“This winter there have been many excellent competitions (for the women) in Finland, Germany and Norway. We can see that they’re taking their work seriously,” Magnussen added.

Gerhard Heiberg, a Norwegian member of the IOC, told Aftenposten that “in principle, the board has said ‘yes’ to ski jumping for women in the Olympics.

“Now we are coming to see the standard of the competition, how many of the jumpers have achieved a high level and how many have a certain talent,” Heiberg added.

Views and News from Norway/Sven Goll
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