Women's ski jumping is expected to receive the blessing of the International Olympic Committee on Wednesday morning in London. Stephen Wilson of The Associated Press reported that unnamed IOC executive board members said the decision is all but certain and the women will be flying in Sochi.
The discipline (and its cousin, Nordic Combined) is the lone male-only bastion on the Olympic skiing program, and the exclusion of a women's event reflects a retro bias that has become impossible to justify.
Detractors have argued there isn't enough depth among the women on the elite level and cited the fact that the first women's world championships (won by Lindsey Van of the U.S.) were held in 2009. It's funny how much this rationale seems to crop up in discussion of women's sports, but is absent when the IOC adds an event like ski cross -- with all due respect -- not because it has centuries of tradition and a fabulously deep field, but because it's TV-friendly and skews young. (Ski cross was first contested at the freestyle world championships in 2005 and voted onto the Olympic schedule in 2006.)
The distaff jumpers, frustrated at being shut out in Vancouver, sued organizers in Canadian court and lost. Ultimately, it seems they had to audition at this year's worlds. Despite high winds and fog in Oslo, Norway, not one woman begged off because of chipped nail polish or a recent romantic breakup, and the IOC apparently was impressed enough to change its mind.
Van wasn't able to defend her title, but she recently did something far more important by making the generous decision to donate bone marrow to a leukemia patient she doesn't know. If all goes as expected Wednesday, she and her teammates will have a much bigger platform to allow the world to get to know them.
Two more quick takes:
• WADA director general David Howman questioned whether B sample testing should continue to be part of anti-doping protocol. My first reaction to this is discomfort. True, the B sample almost never contradicts the A, and true, testing is expensive. But even if it only affects one case in 10,000, I think a backup is reasonable when a career is at stake, especially when many are lobbying for harsher penalties for a first offense. Confirming a result with the B sample also serves to verify the quality of lab procedures. Finally, I wonder how dispensing with B samples might affect future re-testing and research on new substances.
• This is a strange one: The man who oversees the annual London Marathon won't have anything to do with the Olympic marathon in London next year? Perhaps it's simply a natural conflict between old and new organizations, but it's not great PR.