THE FIRST USA OLYMPIC WOMEN’S SKI JUMPING TEAM
Two items of interest came across my desk today. The first was the selection, or at least the nomination for selections, announced today for the historic first women’s ski jumping team to go to the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. If you are a frequent follower of mine, you know how near and dear these young women and their “cause” have been to me over the past seven years or more. Their story almost exactly follows the pattern of the women distance runners in our quest for inclusion to the Games, including an Olympic lawsuit to prove discrimination . . . modeled directly on the International Runners Committee lawsuit for the women’s 5,000m and 10,000m events.
The role-modeling began the day that Peter Jerome, Vice President of the Women’s Ski Jumping Foundation came to L.A. to seek the aid of IOC member and LA84 Foundation President, Anita DeFrantz. She introduced Peter to me, as someone who had been down that path. We consulted, and he did not leave town before finding and consulting with our ACLU lawyers. I have been following and supporting their cause ever since. I’ll admit I am sentimental, and I like happy endings. How fitting that Peter’s daughter, Jessica Jerome was officially named to the Olympic Ski Jumping Team by winning the official first Olympic Trials in Ski Jumping last month in her hometown of Park City.
Today, the official nomination for naming the three team members was announced, adding Lindsay Van and Sarah Hendrickson. Lindsay has been in the sport and dreaming of going to the Olympics for more than a decade. I dubbed her the “point guard” in their Olympic lawsuit. She is a most talented, courageous, competitive athlete, as well as a selfless, humble, generous human being. Sarah is a younger, newer member of the family of jumpers, who has been a rising star, but for an unfortunate injury last year, who has made a remarkable comeback. This is a formidable team!
Like any family, I’m sure it’s more than a little bittersweet to be leaving fellow members at home. I am familiar with two of them, Alissa Johnson and Abby Hughes. If you read the recent New York Times spread on the group, you know they are definitely a “family.” They have been flying all the time I’ve known them as the VISA team, and their day has come.
Abby is someone who was celebrated at an event I was hosting for the LA84 Foundation, on National Girls and Women In Sports Day, I believe around 2004. She was so young and shy, I recall upon receiving her award, her speech was very brief and nervous. She did mention that all she wanted was for someone to let her jump in the Olympics. She sat next to me, and asked if it was OK, and I assured her she said exactly the right thing and everyone loved her. She certainly tugged at my heartstrings. I vowed to help that girl, and a year or two later, when Jessica’s dad met me, I was glad to be involved. On a personal note, and as a former chairwoman for my federation’s international selection committee in women’s long distance running, I would suggest selecting two traveling alternates for that Olympic team, and send both Abby and Alissa! Then again, I’m a dreamer. (Peter Jerome, can you look into it please?)