DENVER — Female ski jumpers suing to get into the 2010 Vancouver Olympics figured the International Olympic Committee told them to go take a giant leap.
The IOC said Wednesday night, however, that president Jacques Rogge didn’t receive their request for a face-to-face meeting with two of the athletes until they had already left Denver.
World champion Lindsey Van of the United States and Canadian national team member Katie Willis wrote to Rogge last week requesting a meeting while he was in Denver attending the SportAccord convention of industry sport leaders and the accompanying IOC executive board meetings.
That letter was sent to IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, and only made its way to Denver on Wednesday afternoon, too late to meet with them, IOC spokeswoman Sandrine Tonge said.
She said Rogge had “reached out to them” via e-mail but did not know what Rogge told the women regarding a meeting to discuss their concerns.
Van told The Associated Press on Wednesday night after returning to Utah that she would check her e-mail as soon as she got home.
Female ski jumpers want the IOC to reconsider its 2006 decision to bar them from the 2010 Games.
“The sport is definitely moving forward, but we need the Olympics to give us that final push so that we can be closer to the guys in equality,” said Van, 24, who won the first women’s ski jumping World Cup, which was held in the Czech Republic last month.
Willis, from Calgary, Alberta, said the success of that World Cup event shows the sport is ready for the Winter Games.
Willis and Van, of Park City, Utah, are among 15 ski jumpers who suing because only male jumpers are allowed to compete in the Vancouver Olympics. The IOC says women’s ski jumping doesn’t have enough international competitions to merit inclusion.
The plaintiffs represent 160 elite female ski jumpers from 18 countries who compete at the sport’s highest level. They are asking for a single event on the normal hill in 2010.
Ski jumping, one of the original eight events held at the first Winter Games in Chamonix, France, in 1924, is the only event in the Winter Games that doesn’t allow female competitors.
Van wasn’t surprised that Rogge didn’t respond to her request for an audience with the IOC chairman before she had to leave Denver.
“Totally ignored, as expected,” she said as she waited at Denver International Airport to fly home to Park City, Utah, Wednesday afternoon.
Van said she was cautiously optimistic she’ll be jumping in Vancouver next winter. But, she said if their quest fails, it will be devastating to her sport because funding would dry up from the U.S. Olympic Committee and U.S. Ski team.
“If the decision goes against us, it’s going to be really hard for our sport. There’s going to be a lot of funding cut at the top level for the women because the economy’s so bad that they’re just going to fund sports that are going to get Olympic medals,” Van said.
“If it’s not in the Olympics, the top level of women ski jumpers will quit and the sport is going to go backward.”