Unable to see beyond the tips of her skis because of a blizzard, Michigan native Lindsey Van still flew to a world title last week in the first-ever women's world championships for ski jumping held in the Czech Republic.
She joins two other Michigan-affiliated young women who have reached the tops of their respective sports recently.
In January, Alissa Czisny, who trains at Detroit SC in Bloomfield Hills, skated to the national figure-skating title and earned a trip to the world championships in March. With the next Winter Olympics less than a year away, Czisny is one of the best American hopes for success in the most-watched winter sport.
And last weekend, on live television, gymnast Jordyn Wieber, of DeWitt, won the first major international gymnastics meet of 2009, the American Cup. Nadia Comaneci, Mary Lou Retton and Nastia Liuikin all won the event in advance of their Olympic titles, so Wieber has stamped herself a contender for 2012. Gymnastics is one of the most-watched sports of the summer games.
But Van, who garnered a bigger title than either Czisny or Wieber, is trying not to think about the 2010 Olympics.
You see, women's ski jumping isn't allowed in the Olympics.
The International Olympic Committee has refused to sanction the sport for women. It's the only winter Olympic sport that both genders don't compete in.
And, frankly, that sucks.
Van, who is 24 and now lives in Utah, has trained her whole life hoping the International Olympic Committee would eventually change its collective prehistoric mind-set. When there weren't very many women competing, the committee's main argument against including their sport made a shred more sense: It would devalue other medals because the sport doesn't have widespread participation. But the numbers have been growing, and now there are enough women in enough countries that the governing body held a world championship.
In between, the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City came and went with the women — teens then — watching male jumpers soar off the ramps they use for training. And the 2006 Games in Torino, Italy, held the same disappointments.
So when the women's bid to jump in Vancouver in 2010 was rejected, 10 women jumpers, including the current world champion, filed a lawsuit against the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee alleging gender discrimination. The Canadian facilities were built with federal and provincial money, they reason, and many of the committee's officials are government appointees. That means the Olympics should be subject to Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which prohibits discrimination, they argue.
The Supreme Court of British Columbia has scheduled an April 20 hearing on the dispute. It's unclear whether the International Olympic Committee would be bound by any ruling in favor of the women, but they're pressing on.
And one of them is hoping to be Lindsey Van-couver. (Sorry, we couldn't resist.)
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