Nordic combined still not an option for female athletes – NBC10 Philadelphia

Like her brother, Annika Malacinski has a dream of participating in the Olympics in Northern Europe.

When winter weather settled at the Van Hoevenberg Mountain and Olympic Diving Complex last fall, she and Niklas trained together in this small town, which hosted the 1980 and 1932 Winter Olympics. .

The two cousins ​​are fearless when it comes to ski jumps and relentlessly propel themselves along the paved trails with inline skates alongside other Olympic hopefuls. Through it all, 20-year-old Annika knows she won’t get the chance to compete in China in February.

Nordic fusion, which combines ski jumping and cross-country skiing, is the only Olympic sport without gender parity: There is no women’s competition at the Olympics.

“I think it’s absurd that one person can fulfill their dream this year and one has to keep pushing to achieve it in 2026,” she said.

Niklas Malacinski, who like his sister holds dual US-Finnish citizenship, agrees.

“That’s not right,” he said, “Even though we both play the same sport, it’s hard to talk about goals with her because I don’t want to make it look like I’m doing it. brag about what i have. a chance to do, and she doesn’t. “

Malacinski, 18, finished sixth in the U.S. trials and only slipped as one of five Americans competing in the Nordic combined in China. Perhaps at the 2026 Milan-Cortina Games, sister and brother from Steamboat Springs, Colorado, will both have a chance to win gold.

The IOC Executive Board reviewed an application in 2018 that would allow women to compete in a Nordic fusion at the Beijing Olympics. After discussions with the International Ski Federation, the application was rejected.

“The inclusion of any women’s events in the Olympics is really important in promoting gender equality, but they also need to be at the right level in order to participate in the Olympics and compete for an Olympic medal. association,” said IOC sporting director Kit McConnell. 2018. “We’ve seen developments in that regard. But I think there is a general feeling that there needs to be further development in the popularity, competitiveness of the event and its attractiveness and follow-up before discussion. could happen again in 2026.”

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Talks will continue later this year. In June, the IOC executive board is expected to decide on an application to grant women access to a combined Nordic Olympic gold medal in 2026.

Women in the sport, and those who support their participation in the Olympics, are optimistic about their chances of integrating into Italy. More than 30 female athletes are competing this winter at the highest level of the sport after the inaugural Women’s World Cup a year ago.

“I would be surprised if we couldn’t get them in, although you never know,” FIS Nordic combined race director Lasse Ottesen said recently in an interview with The Associated Press. We have more and more countries participating and the athletes have grown very quickly to reach a good level. All cells have been checked in our opinion.

“Gender equality is important to the IOC and FIS, and by bringing Northern Europe into it will complete the program at the Olympics.”

While the IOC will likely face another set of questions and criticisms as the Olympics begin with women’s inclusion in Northern Europe, the governing body is proud to point to the improvements made to with gender equality.

The IOC said the Beijing Games will set new milestones for women’s competitors and women’s sports based on decisions made by the executive board in 2018, increasing participation to 45%. from 41% four years ago.

Mixed team formats, such as a team in ski jump, were added to give women more opportunities, and sports like speed skating now have as many women as men. competed in the Olympics for the first time.

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Tara Gerhaghty-Moats was in no mood to celebrate.

Gerhaghty-Moats won her first World Cup title in the women’s Nordic combined competition in December 2020 after winning the Second Division Continental Cup twice. She is disappointed that the remaining events of the premiere season have been canceled during the pandemic and have not been rescheduled like some men’s competitions.

Last spring, she switched to biathlon.

“The FIS doesn’t have much power over the IOC and no one holds the IOC,” Gerhaghty-Moats told the AP. responsibility. “

Earlier this month, women and men competed together in the first ever World Cup event for mixed Nordic teams coming together. Annika Malacinski teamed up with Alexa Brabec, Taylor Fletcher and Jared Shumate to put Americans in sixth place out of eight countries in Italy.

She laments the gender inequality that will force her and other women to wait and hope they will have a chance to live their dreams in four years.

She said: “I think it’s crazy that we’re living in the 20th century and we’re still experiencing inequality not only in our daily lives but through a sport in which we put our souls. to enter. “Didn’t feel good at all. I love Nordic so much, it’s terrible to have to fight other girls on my side to get it out into the world that we’re the only Olympic sport that doesn’t have both men and women participating compete for no reason at all.” Nordic combined still not an option for female athletes – NBC10 Philadelphia

Huynh Nguyen

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