Today, in news that gives us a headache, Russian men's ski jumping coach Alexander Arefyev said in an interview with the Russian newspaper Izvestia that he's not an advocate of women's ski jumping, because, as he says, "It's a heavy and traumatic sport...If I had a daughter, never would give in jumping—it’s too hard work. Women have a different purpose—to have children, do housework, to create a family home.” Sigh.
It's possible that something got lost in translation, but in the event that Arefyev meant what he said, I'll point out that it's certainly not for lack of talent that women's ski jumping has been kept out of the Olympics (this is the first year that women will be allowed to compete at an Olympic level). For example, Alissa Johnson has competed in more than 18 world championships and is the ninth best ski jumper in the world. Abby Hughes has had more than 20 world cup finishes. 15-year-old Japanese ski jumper Sara Takanashi just won her eighth world cup event of the season. And though Sarah Hendrickson tore her ACL in August and isn't expected to go to the Olympics this year, she's widely regarded to be the face of the sport, as well as one of the best athletes in the world. As she told the New York Times in an earlier interview, this isn't just the Olympics. This is the year to compete if you're a female ski jumper. Lindsey Van currently holds the record among men and women for the longest ski jump ever, though in the Olympic trials last month, teammate Jessica Jerome edged Van out with near-flawless technique to secure the historic spot as first-ever woman on the U.S. Olympic ski jumping team. Moreover, Russia's own Irina Avvakumova is a very serious contender and is expected to medal at this year's Winter Games. In fact, Arefyev was asked about her in his interview and said that she is "brilliant" and deserves "respect" (just not a spot at the Olympics, right, dude?).
Every athlete dedicates countless hours of blood, sweat, tears, and sacrifice toward their Olympic dreams, regardless of the sport, and you could argue that female ski jumpers have had to work even harder than other athletes to prove themselves because it's taken so long to make women's Olympic ski jumping official. So it's disappointing that in 2014, Arefyev felt it was appropriate to trot out the tired old trope that women can't be—or shouldn't be—professional athletes (or professional anything!). I, for one, will be very excited to cheer on the female ski jumpers in Sochi this February and look forward to seeing them prove Arefyev wrong.
The remaining three spots on the U.S. women's ski jumping team will be announced on January 22.