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Women's ski jumping set for a bright future

United States' Jessica Jerome makes her trial jump in the women's ski jumping normal hill final at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.
United States' Jessica Jerome makes her trial jump in the women's ski jumping normal hill final at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — With the first women's ski jumping gold medal finally awarded at the Olympics, the next question is where to from here for the sport?

The answer: it's in good hands, and pressing for more exposure at the Winter Games.

Hours before Carina Vogt of Germany won the inaugural normal hill competition at the RusSki Gorki Jumping Center on Tuesday night, some of the powerbrokers who helped get the sport into the Olympics after a decade-long fight were already plotting their next moves.

"Now we have to work on 2018, getting women on the large hill and a team event ... now we start working on that," said DeeDee Corradini, president of the not-for-profit Women's Ski Jumping USA and a former mayor of Salt Lake City.

Corradini and Peter Jerome, father of American ski jumper Jessica Jerome and founder of Ski Jumping USA, were among those leading the fight to get women's ski jumping into the games. They had to overturn long-time impressions that women's bodies weren't able to withstand the rigors of the sport.

Still, Jerome and Co. proceeded, convincing the International Ski Federation (FIS) to establish the first world championships for women in 2009, won by American Lindsey Van, and then a senior World Cup circuit beginning in 2011-12. The numbers grew, so much so that 70 jumpers entered a World Cup event last year.

Along the way, there were battles against the International Olympic Committee, which refused to consider their entry even though male ski jumpers were part of the first Winter Olympics in Chamonix, France in 1924.

Ahead of the 2010 Vancouver Games, Jessica Jerome and Van were part of a group of more than a dozen female ski jumpers who tried to get the British Columbia Supreme Court to force Olympic organizers to give them a spot at the Olympics. That failed, but the IOC finally agreed in 2011 to give the women one event at Sochi, the normal hill.

Corradini said the fight eventually became more than a sporting concern.

"It really became a women's rights issue and a human rights issue because we were really fighting for all women in all sports, and hopefully all aspects of life," Corradini said. "Hopefully we have taught other girls and other young women around the world that if you really are persistent ... you can achieve your dreams."

Peter Jerome paid credit to his daughter and others in the sport who didn't give up on their pursuit during the long battles with officialdom.

"They were jumping as much as they could because they loved the sport," he said. "There wasn't a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow."

There are rewards now. As women jumpers packed their gear Wednesday, some to head home and prepare for the next World Cup event March 1-2 in Romania, others to move on to other areas of Sochi to enjoy the Olympic experience, they would have been surprised and encouraged by Tuesday's result.

Japan's Sara Takanashi came into Sochi as a hot favorite, having won 10 of 13 World Cup events this season and looking like a certain podium finisher, if not gold.

Instead, Vogt claimed the gold medal, Daniela Iraschko-Stolz of Austria took silver and Coline Mattel of France secured the bronze. Takanashi was fourth, suggesting there is depth in women's ski jumping.

There were eight countries represented in the top 10, six athletes had jumps of more than 100 meters and the podium finishers were separated by only 2.2 points.

Jessica Jerome finished 10th, but like most of peers on the hill Tuesday night, felt like a winner.

Now they're targeting Pyeongchang, South Korea in 2018, site of the next Winter Games.

"We have arrived," Jerome said. "We're hard-working, we're dedicated and we're good at what we do.

"It's a close competition. You're not having one person beat everybody all the time by 30 points. It could be anyone's game. There's depth and it is fun."

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