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One Giant Leap for Womankind at the Sochi Olympics

vogt jump

The 2014 Sochi Olympics have been full of firsts, from pre-Games preparation through the latest events.  This year marks the first time since the 1980 summer Games that the Olympics have been held in Russia since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.  The Olympic torch relay was itself the first of its kind.  Nearly 40,000 miles in length, the torch’s journey carried it to the North Pole, into space, and to the bottom of the world’s deepest lake, among other places. What a statement to set the tone for what has proven to be a ground-breaking Winter Games.

Women Making An Impact at the Sochi Olympics

Sochi Olympics Medals Ceremony Alpine Skiing Women

The Sochi Olympics have also come with great progress for female athletes and women’s sports on a global scale this winter. Switzerland’s Dominique Gisin and Slovenia’s Tina Maze made Olympic history tying for gold with an identical time of 1:41.57 in women’s downhill skiing.  Clearly an emotional accomplishment for the both of them, Gisin and Maze celebrated their joint victory.  This is the first time two athletes have tied for first place in this event.

What’s more, twelve new events were introduced this year, the most talked-about being Women’s Ski Jumping. Ingrid Olavsdottir Vestby of Norway pioneered the sport more than 150 years ago with the first-documented ski jump completed by a woman in 1862.  She reportedly wore a skirt during her 20-foot jump.  Since then, female jumpers have been vying for a chance to compete on the international stage; their counterparts having been included in the Olympic Games since the 1924 inaugural Winter Games in Chamonix, France – a ninety year wait.

Back in 2008, a group of 15 women took a stand against the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee fighting to get the event added in 2010.  But it was not until 2011 that the IOC admitted female jumpers.

The beauty of it, though, is that two of the women who fought for the sport in 2008 were among the starters for the event.  Americans Lindsey Van and Jessica Jerome  were among the first to enjoy the victory of gender equality in the ski jumping world.  But their efforts were not merely to prove the point that they could compete. After all, Van became the sport’s first world  champion in 2009.  Coming from a family that believes that everyone should have a chance to succeed at whatever they want to do, Jerome “didn’t see [the court case] as something noble, I saw it more as a moral responsibility.”

Discrimination In Sport

These are the battles still fought in the 21st century. But why?

“They just didn’t know what to do with women in an extreme sport… If women are doing it, does it make it less extreme?” – thoughts of a frustrated Lindsay Van prior to her arrival in Sochi.

It turns out, it’s not less extreme. On Tuesday, February 11, Carina Vogt of Germany triumphed with jumps of 103 and 97.5 meters, earned a combined score of 247.4 points and the first-ever gold medal for women’s Olympic ski jumping.  Vogt has proven that there is in fact no lack of technical skill or universality, as was purported by critics of the women’s division of the sport. Instead, Olympians and spectators from around the world applaud her victory as an athlete and as an example of what women can accomplish under “extreme” conditions

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