Thirty women made history and ignored the advice of patronizing men, demonstrating that they can compete in women’s ski jumping without crumbling into pieces or destroying civilization as we know it.
Sport: Ski jumping
Event: Women’s normal hill (next time, can they also do team and large hill?)
Medalists: Carina Vogt (Germany), Daniela Iraschko-Stolz (Austria), Coline Mattel (France)
SportsMyriad projections: Sara Takanashi (Japan), Sarah Hendrickson (USA), Irina Avvakumova (Russia)
How U.S. fared: In some respects, it was their day. The USA led the way in the push to get this sport in the Olympics, sacrificing livelihoods and years of frustration to do so. They were also pioneers of the sport — Lindsey Van was the first world champion in 2009, Sarah Hendrickson claimed the first World Cup in 2012 and won the world title in 2013.
And Hendrickson had the honor of going first. It was a dubious honor in some respects — she had no World Cup points, so she was essentially ranked last. But no matter. History will record her as the first woman to take an official jump in the Games.
In terms of results, it wasn’t their day. Hendrickson isn’t all the way back from a devastating knee injury. She had a decent first jump, as if to make a statement, then fell back a bit on her second. She finished 21st.
Van has declined in form since her world title. She had two middle-of-the-pack jumps, yelled “I had fun!” to the camera and moved on, finishing 15th.
Jessica Jerome hasn’t been a contender. Her second jump had terrific distance (99 meters), but her landing wasn’t as smooth as she would have liked. She finished 10th.
But the sight of Hendrickson soaring through the air was a beautiful moment. She had overcome so much just to be there. So had everyone.
What happened: The big surprise was Russia’s Irina Avvakumova, who upset Sara Takanashi in a World Cup event in January. She was off the mark in the first jump and farther off the mark in the second.
Takanashi was only third after the first jump, trailing Germany’s Carina Vogt and France’s Coline Mattel.
As the second jump moved along, the historical aspects gave way to the competition. Jumpers go in reverse order of their current standings, so the first-jump leaders can take aim at the podium with the final action of the day.
Austria’s Daniela Iraschko-Stolz, fifth in the first jump, sailed 104.5 meters in her second — six meters farther than her first. Young Italian Evelyn Insam couldn’t match that.
Then it was Takanashi’s turn. The dominant Japanese teen has one World Cup title and is in line for a second. But she was second to Hendrickson at the 2013 World Championships. And with her 98.5-meter jump, she dropped behind Iraschko-Stolz.
Mattel, often third behind Takanashi and Hendrickson, did just enough to bump off Takanashi. Each of her two jumps was a little behind Takanashi’s in terms of distance, but she had better style points and Takanashi had wind adjustments.
Vogt had yet to win a World Cup or World Championship title. Her second-jump distance was only 97.5 meters, and she waited in suspense to see if her overall total would be enough. It was.
For Takanashi and other contenders, there was Olympic heartbreak. But they’ll have more opportunities to come. They’re young, and this sport is only going to grow.
Quote: “I think our battle to get the women into ski jumping became much more than ski jumping. It really became a women’s rights issue and a human rights issue because we were really fighting for all women in all sports and hopefully all aspects of life. Hopefully we have taught other girls and other young women around the world that if you really are persistent and never give up, fight hard – hopefully you don’t have to fight – but if you do, fight fairly and well and you can achieve your dreams. So go for it. That’s what we hope. Now we have to work on 2018 getting women on the large hill and a team event. As soon as Sochi is over we start working on that.” – DeeDee Corradini, president of Women’s Ski Jumping USA (sent via press release)