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Corradini pushes for women's ski jumping in 2010 Olympics

WHISTLER, British Columbia -- The president of Women's Ski
Jumping USA called for the federal and provincial governments and
Vancouver organizers to push the International Olympic Committee to
add women's ski jumping to the 2010 Winter Games.

Deedee Corradini, the mayor of Salt Lake City when the city
secured the 2002 Winter Games, noted $580 million of Canadian
taxpayer money has helped the Vancouver Olympic Games Organizing
Committee build Olympic facilities.

"My understanding is it's against federal and provincial law in
Canada to spend government money on facilities that discriminate,"
Corradini said Saturday during a news conference at the Canadian
ski jumping championships.

"To have a men's only sign on these ski jumps seems to be
discriminatory and contrary to Canada's own human rights act."

The IOC voted against allowing women's ski jumping in Vancouver,
arguing the sport isn't developed enough and that it doesn't meet
the basic criteria for inclusion.

Corradini said statistics show there are more women ski jumpers
in the world than female athletes in other Winter Olympic sports.
The first women's world championships will be held next year and
there will be four world junior championship before 2010.

"Our hope is that VANOC and the federal government and the
provincial government could all get together," she said. "The
facts are there. [Maybe] the IOC misunderstood the facts. If they
could be convinced how the sport has grown, maybe we could persuade
them that [women jumpers] will be ready in 2010.

"I think Canada is the key as a host country. The U.S. can't do
it, other countries around the world can't make this change. It has
to be Canada because you are hosting the Games."

Harry Bains, a member of the British Columbia legislature and
the provincial NDP's Olympic critic, said keeping women's ski
jumpers out of the Games goes against Canadian values of equality
and inclusion.

"I think it's high time all levels of government and VANOC gets
serious about this issue and brings the equality back," said
Bains, who joined Corradini in front of the ski jump hill that will
be used for the 2010 Games.

David Emerson, Canada's federal minister responsible for the
2010 Games, said it's "extremely disappointing" women are not
being allowed to ski jump at the Olympics.

"Ski jumping is an important sport and we're investing a lot in
jumping and training facilities in Canada and to not have women
able to participate on the same basis as men, to me, I just don't
think it's right," he told reporters at Vancouver International
Airport before leaving on a trade mission to Asia.

Emerson said he'll be discussing the issue with Helena Guergis,
the minister of state for sport, when he returns from his trip.

John Heilig, VANOC's manager for ski jumping and Nordic
combined, said if the IOC accepted women's ski jumping the event
could be accommodated in the Vancouver Games schedule.

"VANOC has said if women's ski jumping was accepted, then we
would provide what they require," Heilig said. "This is an IOC
decision."

Heilig, the father of four daughters, said he personally
supports women's ski jumpers.

"I love to see the women out here," he said. "I think women's
jumping is an exceptional part of ski jumping."

A group of Canadian women ski jumpers have filed a complaint
with the Canadian Human Right Commission, arguing the Olympic
movement is discriminating against them. That complaint was heard
last September and a decision is expected soon.

"We're very hopeful," said Sarah Lynch, the mother of ski
jumper Zoya Lynch. "As a parent, as a female, as a Canadian, it
really is discrimination. There is no reason why it should not be
in there."

While Corradini and members of the Canadian ski team are vocal
in their dissent, the United States Ski and Snowboard Association
is taking a more diplomatic tact.

The association is the governing body for ski sports in the
U.S., including jumping. Tom Kelly, vice president of
communication, refused to say if he thought women were being
discriminated against.

"We have great respect for the process the IOC has for bringing
the sport into the Olympics," he said in a telephone interview.
"We were disappointed when the IOC made it's decision [on 2010.]

"We are very optimistic for 2014. The first world championships
will be held next year and that is a critical event in the growth
of the sport. When we get to the world championships, and the world
sees what these women can do, that is a great message to send to
the IOC."

Ron Read, high performance director for the Canadian Ski Jumping
Association, said he believes women's ski jumping is just as
competitive as other women's sports at the Olympics.

"If you took all 13 of the Winter Olympic sports, I believe
women's ski jumping would be in the top half for numbers, for a
competitive field," he said.