Iraschko Reigns at Worlds Women’s Ski Jump Amidst Thick Fog, Wind

Oslo, Norway – Austria’s Daniela Iraschko emerged through the heavy fog and wind in Oslo on Friday to take the gold medal in the second World Championships ever to allow women to compete in ski jumping. Italy’s Elena Runggaldier captured silver and France’s Coline Mattel took the bronze.nIt wasn’t the bluebird day that elite women ski jumpers and their supporters from around the world had hoped for at the World Championships. Jumpers said they could barely see their coaches wave the start flag and could only hear, not see, the more than 8,000 spectators that came out to watch the event. Some called the conditions, “unbelievably difficult.”

The top Visa Team member Friday was Jessica Jerome who finished 14th with jumps of 84 and 90 meters. Sarah Hendrickson finished 16th with jumps of 90.5 and 84 meters, Alissa Johnson was 20th with 91 and 81 meters; Abby Hughes was 24th with 86.5 and 83 meters; and Lindsey Van finished 34th after not making it to the second round. All hail from Park City, Utah.

Johnson, who was seventh after the first round, said the conditions were as bad as she’s ever seen. “I couldn’t see anything and I could barely hear anything. It was a bizarre feeling, but I had a job to do. I was happy with my first jump. My second jump, I was definitely nervous, but still having a good time.”

Van, the inaugural women’s champion in 2009, did not make the second round. She said she had a good jump, but got caught in a strong side wind. “I can’t believe they sent me down in that. But that’s the way it is. That’s the sport. Obviously I’m not psyched.”

Hendrickson, the 2010 Junior Worlds bronze medalist, said the winds were hard to deal with and were all over the place, but felt her jumps were technically not that bad. “It was a little intimidating, but it’s an outdoor sport and we have to take what we can get,” said Hendrickson who donned the words, “Wish it, Dream it, Do it” on her gloves.

Hughes, who is competing in her first World Championships, said she didn’t think they had jumped in conditions as “crazy” as this before – even with the wind shields up on the in-run. “ I couldn’t see Kjell (Magnussen, coach) and I just had to listen for his whistle. But I could hear the crowd and it was an amazing experience.”

Hughes had written “Love You Brother” on her gloves to show support for her sibling, Blake, who is also a ski jumper but never made it to the World Championships. She grew up wanting to be a jumper like him. “He saw it on TV and texted me back and said, ‘Love you too.’”

Deedee Corradini, WSJ-USA president, was in the stands with a group of American supporters who agreed that the unpredictable wind was the true unknown factor, especially for the second round. “But as a whole it was a good, close competition and there was certainly universality and that is a very good thing.”

The International Olympic Committee was paying close attention to Friday’s competition. The IOC is “looking favorably” at adding a women’s ski jumping event to the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games program. International Ski Federation President Gian-Franco Kasper was spotted in the crowd watching the jumpers and several large groups sported signs in support of allowing women ski jumpers to compete in Sochi 2014.

“I am 90-percent optimistic that it will be in the Olympics in 2014,” Kasper said, then going on to tout the start of a women’s World Cup tour next season.

“The announcer just kept saying how important this competition was because of the pending IOC decision and that for these women to jump as well as they did in these conditions was very respectable,” said Vic Method, Women’s Ski Jumping USA vice president.

International Olympic Committee member Gunilla Lindberg, of Sweden, told reporters after the event that the female jumpers had made “enormous progress” during the past two years.

“I am impressed with what I have seen here today … the fact that they can jump under these conditions, and it’s great to feel the atmosphere,” said Lindberg, who came to Oslo to evaluate the women’s ski jumping event for possible inclusion in the 2014 Games.

The women did their part to prove how ready they are, said Peter Jerome, father to Jessica Jerome and a long-time women’s ski jumping advocate.

“I am heartened that Ms. Lindberg saw the competition for what it was — an extremely good competition that was held in extremely difficult conditions,” Peter Jerome said.

In Oslo, 43 athletes from 15 nations competed compared to 36 athletes from 13 nations in 2009. Five of the top six Friday were from different countries and ranged from gold-medalist and 27-year-old Daniela Iraschko, of Austria, to 14-year-old Sarah Takanashi (6th place), of Japan.

Participation also has increased worldwide. In 2006, 83 women from 14 nations were registered to compete on the FIS Continental Cup and in 2010, those numbers increased to 182 women from 18 nations.

A decision about adding a women’s ski jumping event to the Sochi 2014 Games is expect to be announced by late March or April.

Official Results
2011 World Ski Jumping Championships
Oslo, Norway
Feb. 25, 2011
Women’s HS106

1. Daniela Iraschko, AUT, (97, 97) 231.7 points
2. Elena Runggaldier, ITA, (97.5, 93.5) 218.9 points
3. Coline Mattel, FRA, (92, 97) 211.5 points

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