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After an uphill struggle, women's ski jumping has finally taken off . . .

You have to hand it to Russia:

Germany's Carina Vogt leaps to the gold medal in the inaugural Olympic women's ski jumping normal hill event, at the RusSki Gorki Jumping Center in Sochi. Picture: Vianney Thibaut/Getty Images
Germany's Carina Vogt leaps to the gold medal in the inaugural Olympic women's ski jumping normal hill event, at the RusSki Gorki Jumping Center in Sochi. Picture: Vianney Thibaut/Getty Images

they have pulled it off. There have been no terrorist attacks, which had been regarded by some as "inevitable" prior to the 2014 Winter Olympics and nobody has even been arrested for trying to corrupt children with their gay propaganda. After reams of negative newsprint in the months preceding the Games, Sochi has been a triumph.

Indeed, the 2014 Winter Olympics have been ground-breaking, a fact which is overshadowed largely by other issues. For the first time in the 90-year history of the Winter Olympics, women's ski jumping was in the programme alongside its male counterpart. Germany's Carina Vogt leapt her way into sporting immortality by winning the first gold medal in the event, but this is just a tiny part of the story.

The campaign to include women's ski jumping in the Games was a good deal more than a decade old, but the reasons for its exclusion are older still. The battle to get the sport into the Olympic programme was won in 2011; it was a long, costly and bruising struggle but one which epitomised why one should never give up in the fight for equality.

As Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic Games said: "The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well."

And fight well, the champions of women's ski jumping did, in particular two American ski jumpers - Lindsey Van and Jessica Jerome - and Deedee Corradini, the president of Women's Ski Jumping USA. They are pioneers in the truest sense of the word. In the cases of Van and Jerome, they fought this battle to the detriment of their own sporting performance. They admit that it was all worth it, though.

Women had been forbidden from ski jumping because of concerns that they could not cope with the physical demands of the sport, a view which endured even in the 21st century. This despite the fact that women often record superior distances to male jumpers because they are usually lighter.

Some of the attitudes which the women were up against were little short of unbelievable. As recently as 2005, Gian Franco Kasper, the president of the International Ski Federation and a member of the IOC, said: "Don't forget, it's like jumping from two metres high on to the ground 1000 times a year. It seems not appropriate for ladies from a medical point of view."

Van said that these comments made her want to vomit. She was not the only one who felt sick.

This was not even the most insulting of the comments made, though. Alexander Arefyev, the Russian men's ski jumping coach, also made it clear that he did not support women ski jumping. "It's a pretty difficult sport with a high risk of injury. If a man gets a serious injury, it's still not fatal, but, for women, it could end much more seriously. Women have another purpose: to have children, to do housework, to create hearth and home."

These attitudes make the Royal & Ancient Golf Club - which does not permit women members just because they don't really fancy sharing their club with them - look positively progressive.

Van also disclosed that someone had asked her if her uterus had fallen out yet because of the jumps.

They asked in all seriousness. Corradini, alongside Van and Jerome, spearheaded the campaign for women's ski jumping to become an Olympic sport, going so far as to take a case against the Vancouver Organising Committee to the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the Canadian Supreme Court for excluding the event from the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Jerome's jumping suffered; she admits that there were times when she should have been training when instead she was in court.

Heartbreakingly for the women, they lost the case despite the court agreeing that they were being discriminated against. The judge asserted that the court had no control over the IOC. The women did not give up, though, and female ski jumping finally made its inaugural Olympic appearance this year. Corradini called it "a dream come true, not just for ski jumping but for women's rights, human rights and women in sport."

If the story were to have had a fairy-tale ending, Van and Jerome would have been on the podium in Sochi. Instead, they finished 15th and 10th, respectively. Despite this, both consider themselves successful.

"It doesn't matter who wins the medals tonight because, well, we've all won just by being here," said Van, prior to the final.

In a world where women continue to fight a losing battle for equality in business and politics, sport keeps making small but significant steps toward complete parity. Van, Jerome and Corradini are truly inspirational in their persistence, belief and unwillingness to be defeated.

Jerome perhaps put it best when she said: "We've arrived."

These women are also here to stay.

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