LAKE PLACID, NY (AP) — Like her brother, Annika Malacinski dreams of going to the Olympics in North America.
When the winter weather set in at the Olympic Jumping Complex and Mount Van Hoevenberg last fall, she and Niklas trained together in this small town that hosted the 1980 and 1932 Winter Olympics.
The siblings fearlessly flew off a ski jump, pushing themselves relentlessly onto paved trails in roller skis alongside other Olympic hopefuls. Despite everything, 20-year-old Annika knew she didn’t have a chance to compete in China in February.
Nordic combined, which combines ski jumping and cross-country skiing, is the only Olympic sport without gender equality: there is no women’s competition at the Games.
“I think it’s absurd that one person can fulfill their dreams this coming year and you just have to keep pushing to make it a reality in 2026,” she said.
Niklas Malacinski, who like his sister has an American-Finnish dual nationality, agreed.
“It’s not right,” he said. “Even though we both do the same sport, it’s hard to talk to her about goals because I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging about what I have a chance to do, and she doesn’t.”
18-year-old Malacinski finished sixth in the American trials, just missing out on being one of five Americans to compete in the Nordic Combined in China. Perhaps the sister and brother from Steamboat Springs, Colorado, will both have a shot at gold at the 2026 Milan-Cortina Games.
The board of directors of the International Olympic Committee considered an application in 2018 that would have allowed women to compete in the Scandinavian combination at the Beijing Games. After consultation with the International Ski Federation, the application was rejected.
“Including all women’s events in the Olympics is very important for promoting gender equality, but they also need to be at an appropriate level to be included in the Olympics and to compete for an Olympic medal,” said IOC- sports director Kit McConnell in a statement. 2018. “We’ve seen developments in that regard. But I think there was a general feeling that further development in terms of the universality, the competitiveness of the event, its attractiveness and tracking should be seen before that discussion in 2026 could happen again.”
Talks will resume later this year. In June, the IOC’s board of directors is expected to make a decision on an application to allow women access to Olympic gold in Scandinavia in 2026.
Women in sport, and advocates for their participation in the Olympics, are optimistic about the chances of inclusion in Italy. More than 30 female athletes will compete at the highest levels of the sport this winter after debuting the women’s World Cup season a year ago.
“I’d be surprised if we can’t bring them in, although you never know,” Lasse Ottesen, FIS Nordic race director, said in an interview with The Associated Press recently. “We have seen the last two fantastic developments. We have more and more countries participating and the athletes have developed very quickly to get to a good level. From our point of view, all the boxes have been checked.
“Gender equality is important to the IOC and FIS, and getting Nordic involved would complete the Olympics program.”
While the IOC is likely to face another round of questions and criticism when the Games begin with women being left out of the Scandinavian combination, the governing body is proud to point to improvements made towards gender equality.
The IOC said the Beijing Games will bring new results for women participants and women’s sports based on decisions taken by the board of directors in 2018, increasing participation to 45% from 41% four years ago.
Mixed team formats, such as ski jumping, were added to give women more opportunities, and sports like speed skating now have as many women as men competing in the Olympics for the first time.
Tara Gerhaghty-Moats isn’t in the mood to party.
Gerhaghty-Moats won the first Women’s Nordic Combined World Cup in December 2020 after being a two-time champion of the second-tier Continental Cup. She was discouraged that the rest of the debut season’s events were canceled during the pandemic and not rescheduled like some of the men’s competitions.
Last spring she switched to biathlon.
“Being in Scandinavia showed me the underbelly of what the Olympics is all about, which is not a pristine picture,” Gerhaghty-Moats told AP. “FIS does not have much power over the IOC and no one controls the IOC. Responsible.”
Earlier this month, women and men competed together in the first Nordic mixed team World Cup event. Annika Malacinski teamed up with Alexa Brabec, Taylor Fletcher and Jared Shumate to make the Americans sixth of eight countries in Italy.
She lamented the inequality between men and women that will force her and other women to wait and hope that four years from now they will have the chance to make their dreams come true.
“I think it’s insane that we live in the 20th century and that we still experience inequality not only in our daily lives, but also in a sport that we put our souls into,” she said. “Doesn’t feel right at all. As much as I love Nordic combined, it is absolutely horrendous to have to fight with other girls by my side to make it known to the world that we are the only Olympic sport that has both men and women in the games for good reason. all of them.”
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