October 1, 2008 / 7:53 PM / in 9 years

Female ski jumpers push lawsuit over Games

<p>Canadian ski jumper Zoya Lynch talks to the media as her mother Sarah (L) looks on outside the court house in Vancouver, British Columbia October 1, 2008. Lynch had become the tenth plaintiff in a lawsuit filed to ensure that women ski jumpers have the same opportunities as male ski jumpers in the upcoming 2010 Olympic Winter Games. REUTERS/Andy Clark</p>

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - A coalition of international women ski jumpers, suing for the right to compete in the 2010 Olympics, boosted their case on Wednesday by adding an another athlete from host country Canada.

Zoya Lynch said she decided to join the lawsuit because an earlier out-of-court effort by Canadian jumpers to convince Olympic officials to allow women to compete in the Vancouver Winter Games had not worked.

“I don’t want to have to sit on the sidelines and watch the boys,” Lynch, 17, told reporters outside the Vancouver court where the lawsuit was filed in May.

Lynch is the 10th current or retired international ski jumper to join the lawsuit.

The North American and European women allege they are being discriminated against because the Olympics allows male ski jumpers to compete but there is no corresponding competition for female athletes.

Ski jumping has been an Olympic sport since 1924, and is one of the few events in either the Winter or Summer Games to not have both a men’s and women’s competition.

The group sued the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC), saying that as a Canadian organization getting public funding it has to abide by laws against gender discrimination.

VANOC argues the International Olympic Committee decides what events will be in the Games, and the IOC is not covered by Canadian law.

“We recognize that efforts are continuing by some to raise the profile and awareness of the issue, however, neither the facts nor our position have changed. It is not our decision to make,” VANOC Executive Vice-President Cathy Priestner said.

IOC President Jacques Rogge said in February that only 80 women were competing in ski jumping, far fewer than for other Olympic sports. He said that including the event in the 2010 Games would dilute the value of medals won in other events.

Women argue there are more females involved in ski jumping than in some sports, such as ski-cross, that are included in the Games.

“I think, ultimately, it leads to sexism and gender inequality,” Lynch told reporters, adding she has dreamed of being in the Olympics since she took up ski jumping as a little girl.

“I love everything about (jumping). Who wouldn’t want to fly through the air,” she said with her mother at her side.

Canadian ski jumpers had filed a complaint to Canada’s Human Rights Commission, but dropped it when the federal government agreed take their issue to the IOC.

The women’s lawyer said he hopes the case can be argued before a judge before the end of the year.

VANOC said the jumpers should be focusing on joining the Olympics in 2014, adding they are welcome to use the facilities built for the 2010 Games to practice.

Reporting Allan Dowd, editing by Rob Wilson

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