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It’s official: Women definitely can't jump

Canada's Supreme Court today ended the legal bid of more than a dozen women ski jumpers from around the world who were seeking to pry open the last Olympic door shut to women. They were hoping to compete in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games.

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They also say that the fact that women’s ski cross – think gravity-fueled BMX racing on snow, minus the wheels – was admitted to the Olympics in the same 2006 meeting at which women’s ski jumping was turned down for having too weak a field, shows thinly veiled discrimination. Women’s ski jumping had roughly twice the number of elite competitors as women’s ski cross at the time, though neither fully met the International Olympic Committee (IOC) requirements for being added to the Games.

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So after exhausting all other channels, the women sued Vancouver’s organizing committee (known as VANOC) for implementing the IOC’s discriminatory policy – even if they had not come up with the policy. They had asked VANOC to refuse to hold the men’s competition if the women weren’t allowed to compete. While the Vancouver court that first heard their case agreed that the IOC’s policy constituted discrimination, they said VANOC was powerless to do anything about it – a decision upheld in a British Columbia appeals court after a Nov. 11-12 trial.

Anita DeFrantz, who as chair of the IOC’s Women and Sports Commission has presided over a huge increase in women's participation in the Olympics, told the Monitor last month that the ski jumpers' situation was a textbook case of discrimination that she hadn't seen in any other sport. (While ski jumping is the last Olympic discipline closed to women, there are still no canoeing events in the discipline of Canoe & Kayak.)

There is evidence to support the women’s claim that ski jumping – especially in Europe, where the men’s World Cup circuit is quite lucrative – is an old boys’ club. In 2005 Gian-Franco Kasper, head of the International Ski Federation, told NPR, "Ski jumping is just too dangerous for women. Don't forget, [the landing] it's like jumping down from, let's say, about two meters to the ground about a thousand times a year, which seems not to be appropriate for ladies from a medical point of view."

IOC 'definitely considering' jumping at 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia

Undeterred, the women jumpers whose legal bid ended today – an international group that includes athletes from Norway, Germany, Slovenia, and Canada, as well as the US – have pressed on with their careers. At a competition in Norway this weekend, two of the top three finishers were plaintiffs in the case.

Ms. Corradini vowed that the Supreme Court's decision would not halt the women's efforts.

“Although we are hugely disappointed by the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear us this time, we won’t give up. This is about human rights and discrimination. It’s a wrong that must be righted," she said. “These women are ready, they’re highly skilled athletes and given the chance, would have provided Olympic spectators with a thrilling and competitive performance in February at Whistler."

Mr. Rogge, who has received an angry letter from the women over his Dec. 10 comments, said that the IOC is “definitely considering” women’s ski jumping for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

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