Steamboat Springs Long awaited news for local athletes and coaches came early Wednesday morning when it was announced that six new events will be included in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Team figure skating, luge team relay and biathlon mixed relay all made the cut, but the big news for Steamboat Springs athletes was the inclusion of women’s ski jumping and men’s and women’s ski halfpipe.
“It’s phenomenal,” Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club freestyle director Erik Skinner said. “It’s awesome, and it opens up a whole new door for us.”
The inclusion of women’s ski jumping marks the end of a long battle that even spilled into the courtroom in the days leading up to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia.
The women didn’t prevail there, but they finally got the Olympic ticket Wednesday.
Locally, that decision can make a huge difference.
“That’s great news,” Winter Sports Club Nordic director Todd Wilson said. “It’s really cool, exciting and we’re sure encouraged by it.”
The path for women’s ski jumpers was neither easy nor short. The event was ruled out of the Vancouver games, with the International Olympic Committee claiming it lacked enough elite-level athletes.
A World Championship was first was established in 2009 and has grown a great deal since. Next year, a World Cup circuit will launch.
“It’s been a long, drawn-out process, but maybe in the long run that’s better,” Wilson said. “It will be more stable. At the most recent World Championships, there were women from a lot of different countries.
“This should have happened sooner, but the growth was also a necessary process.”
Women’s ski jumping will consist of one event, from the normal hill. The men competed in three events in 2010: normal and large hills, and a team event.
There will not be any women’s Nordic combined events.
For Steamboat’s freestyle skiers, an Olympic halfpipe event amounts to another goal hanging out there for aspiring skiers.
“It’s great,” Penn Lukens said.
Lukens emerged as one of the area’s top halfpipe skiers this season by winning the NorAm Grand Prix.
“It’s great that the Olympic committee is starting to recognize halfpipe more now,” he said. “It’s really grown the last few years, and now it’s finally in the Olympics.”
The team figure skating event will feature teams of six skaters: one male, one female, one figure skating pair and one ice dancing pair, each earning points for their team.
Biathlon mixed relay features two women and two men. Each athlete will shoot twice, with the men skiing a 7.5-kilometer course and the women 6-kilometer legs.
The luge team relay includes single male and female sledders and one doubles sled. They go one at a time, tapping a pad at the bottom of the course to signal the next team member to start.
The International Olympic Committee put off decisions on men’s and women’s ski and snowboard slopestyle and an Alpine skiing team event. Announcements on those are expected in May.
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com