Ski halfpipe, women's ski jumping in for 2014 Olympics; slopestyle on hold

The IOC has given the green light for halfpipe skiing and women's ski jumping to be added as events for the 2014 Winter Olympics, giving two new groups of skiers an opportunity to compete for gold. Now, only slopestyle skiing is still on hold.
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Untold freeskiers and their sponsors across the globe are celebrating, and so are the hundreds of brave women who call themselves ski jumpers.

The IOC on April 6, 2011, approved the inclusion of men’s and women’s ski halfpipe and women's ski jumping for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, but put the ski and snowboard slopestyle events on hold for further review. There was guarded optimism at the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association headquarters in Park City that the IOC also would move to include slopestyle--if it can work out the details with the Sochi organizing committee. That decision is expected in late May.

“This is a special day,” said Bill Marolt, USSA president and CEO. “The IOC's decisions to include women's ski jumping and halfpipe skiing marks a truly progressive era in the Olympic sport movement. Today is the beginning of a chapter in the history books that will showcase these great athletes' talent and dedication on the world's stage in 2014 and beyond. The USSA is happy to be a part of these exciting developments in Olympic sport.”

“At ski areas worldwide, millions of kids are skiing in halfpipes. Including freeskiing in the Olympics opens the door to millions of youth to share in the Olympic dream,” added Luke Bodensteiner, the team’s executive vice president for athletics. The U.S. Ski Team announced in late January the creation of a U.S. Freeskiing Team in partnership with The North Face to capitalize on the expected inclusion of both ski halfpipe and slopestyle into the Olympic family.

“We couldn’t be more excited for our athlete team member Mike Riddle and the entire freeskiing community,” said Pamela Bennett of The North Face. “More good news is potentially on the horizon, as the IOC is still deliberating their decision to add slopestyle skiing and snowboarding events to the Olympic roster. The decision is slated to be announced at the end of May or early of June.”

The IOC added six events in total, also bringing in biathlon mixed relay, a figure skating team event and luge relay team. The IOC tabled a decision on adding an Alpine team parallel event.

The IOC twice rejected women's ski jumping for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, saying the sport lacked enough elite competitors, according to the Associated Press. Women jumpers took their case all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, but failed to overturn the IOC decision. There does appear to be a surge in interest in women’s ski jumping. In a March 4, 2011, article on the inclusion of men’s and women’s ski jumping in the club-level U.S. Collegiate Ski Association Championships, the New York Times reported that about 40 percent of new ski jumpers are female. The college championships, the first to include jumping since the NCAA eliminated the discipline from its program three decades ago, drew about 30 competitors.

--Andy Bigford

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