After practically a decade of nurturing the participation of women and girls, the leaders of Nordic mixed, one among the unique Winter Olympic competitions, had been pretty sure they’d secured the way forward for their sport for years to return.
The sport, which requires excellence in each ski leaping and cross-country snowboarding, had established a ladies’s World Cup circuit and held a ladies’s competitors at the world championships. Countries in North America, Europe and Asia all had members.
Then got here some disturbing information from the management of snowboarding’s world governing physique. The folks at the International Olympic Committee who’re in cost of the program for the subsequent winter Games, scheduled for Milan-Cortina, Italy in 2026, are skeptical that the sport has made sufficient progress to advantage a ladies’s competitors.
And that wasn’t the solely unhealthy information. There is concern that Nordic mixed just isn’t fashionable sufficient to advantage any competitors in any respect. As the solely occasion with out a ladies’s competitors, Nordic mixed could possibly be a candidate for elimination, since gender equality is meant to be a precedence for the Olympics.
“Without the ladies, it could possibly be a problem for us to maintain the boys,” mentioned Lasse Ottesen, the former Norwegian ski jumper who’s a race director for Nordic mixed. “We have plenty of historical past.”
A vote is scheduled for June 26.
“All of us are very pissed off,” Annika Malacinski, the prime American girl in Nordic mixed, mentioned throughout an interview from Finland, the place she is coaching. “Every athlete strives to be at the elite stage, which is at the Olympics. If This occurs, all the coaching, the blood sweat and tears, is for nothing as a result of we’re not being included in one among the most vital competitions.”
Malacinski, 21, put full-time faculty on maintain to pursue Nordic mixed, hoping to be in the first group of girls to compete in the occasion at the Olympics, very similar to the ladies who competed in the first ladies’s ski leaping competitors in 2014. She trains roughly 5 hours a day, balancing leaping apply with endurance coaching and energy periods in the gymnasium as she tries to be robust sufficient to energy by cross nation races however mild sufficient to fly far throughout the bounce.
“It’s laborious to consider that even in the twenty first century we will expertise this type of inequality,” she mentioned.
The potential lack of the sport is a explanation for main concern in northern Europe, the place Nordic mixed is amongst the hottest of winter sports activities.
“Competing in the Olympics means the world to all of us,” mentioned Marte Leinan Lund of Norway, who alongside together with her sister, Mari, is one among the finest in the world in Nordic mixed. The Leinan Lund sisters (Marte is 21 and Mari is 23), moved away from house and started attending a particular faculty in their teenagers that allowed them to pursue the sport with the purpose of creating the Olympics. “It’s additionally vital that women and men have the identical alternatives, each in sports activities and in basic,” Marte Leinan Lund added.
A spokesman for the IOC confirmed that the sports activities program for Milan-Cortina is on the agenda for the subsequent govt board assembly, and that the program fee will make suggestions however “all the relaxation is theory.”
Officials with Nordic mixed and the leaders of FIS, snowboarding’s world governing physique, have been informed the subject for the IOC just isn’t solely equality but in addition relevance.
Organizers try to restrict the dimension of the Games whereas additionally incorporating new sports activities that enchantment to a youthful technology. The breakout star of final winter’s Beijing Games was Eileen Gu, the freestyle skier who received gold medals in large air and halfpipe and a silver in slopestyle, occasions that didn’t exist a decade in the past. Big air for snowboarding was added simply this yr.
Also, whereas IOC officers acknowledge that Nordic mixed has established main ladies’s competitions, officers with Nordic mixed say there may be concern that the international locations that take part and excel embrace the traditional listing of the Winter Olympic stalwarts, and there may be little potential for prime opponents from South America, Africa or Asian international locations in addition to Japan.
A century in the past, when cross-country snowboarding and ski leaping had been primarily the solely sorts of snowboarding that existed, a mixed occasion topped the world’s biggest skier. The preliminary Olympics included simply 16 occasions in 9 sports activities. There at the moment are greater than 100 occasions in 15 sports activities. With the creation of Alpine snowboarding and freestyle, to say nothing of snowboarding, Nordic mixed now not defines a king (or queen) of the mountain.
Skiing officers and athletes say the criticisms of the sport are tantamount to shifting the purpose posts. IOC officers informed the sport it wanted to attempt for gender equality and set up a ladies’s competitors. Its leaders did that, and so they see the rising participation of women and girls as key to broadening the sport’s enchantment.
They are promising to chop again on 15 slots for males and to carry a ladies’s Olympic competitors with 30 athletes, which is able to solely add 15 folks total to the Games from their sport competitors.
However, leaders of the sport fear that the IOC will maintain its numbers down and remove the gender inequity drawback by eliminating Nordic mixed altogether.
“We are afraid,” mentioned Horst Huttel, the director of Nordic occasions for Germany.
Nick Hendrickson, the crew director for the US Nordic mixed crew, mentioned he has seen this circumstance earlier than, however with a far completely different final result. His sister, Sarah, was in the first group of girls’s ski jumpers. She competed in the Olympics in 2014 and 2018.
Once ladies’s ski leaping bought the inexperienced mild for Olympic inclusion, funding for the sport elevated and the stage of competitors took off, as 13-year-old women checked out it a viable path to fulfilling their Olympic desires.
“It’s a little bit of the rooster or the egg,” Hendrickson mentioned. “Women’s Nordic mixed has come a really good distance. The subsequent step is being allowed to maintain it going by being in the Olympics. That’s what’s going to push the stage of the sport.”
Without Olympic inclusion although, there could also be no sport in any respect.