Nordic Combined, which tests skiers in a unique way with breathtaking jumps and breathtaking trails, has been part of the Winter Olympics since 1924. Your time may be up.
It’s the only Olympic sport without women, and the International Olympic Committee is due later this month to decide whether women will be allowed to compete in Nordic combined at the 2026 Milan-Cortina d’Ampezzo Games.
However, according to athletes and supporters, there is a possibility that Nordic combined will be dropped from the Olympics altogether.
“What I’ve been hearing loud and clear in the back channels is that the solution to taking care of the dirty secret of gender justice is to take men out of the 2026 program.” said Billy Demong, a five-time Olympic champion in Nordic Combined and a member of the USA Nordic Board of Directors. “Taking away one of the original sports from the inaugural Winter Olympics would be tragic, short-sighted and misguided.”
The IOC said final decisions on the 2026 Olympic Games program for medal competitions are to be made at a meeting of its Executive Board on June 24, chaired by President Thomas Bach.
“We see sports like ski mountaineering being added and I hear the IOC doesn’t want to increase the number of athletes and the solution is to take men out of Nordic combined.” Demong said Tuesday in an interview with The Associated Press.
Men in Nordic Combined have publicly pushed on social media and elsewhere for women to be included, adding a mixed team format as another Olympic medal event, and are now preparing for their future as athletes on the world stage.
Jasper Good, who represented the USA at the Beijing Olympics earlier this year, said he was “blind” by the possibility.
“We get information from athlete groups around the world and national governing bodies, and most of us didn’t know the sport was in danger.” he said.
The International Ski Federation’s Nordic Combined race director, Lasse Ottesen, said he hadn’t heard anything official from the IOC about men potentially being excluded from the Olympic programme.
“We hear speculation from different quarters” Ottesen said on Wednesday. “If for some reason the IOC made a decision not to include women for the 26 events, what would happen to the men? Would that be some kind of signal to say you’re in for the 26’s events but for 30’s we think about gender equality and then the men are out.
Nordic combined athletes need to have a sure instinct and fearlessness when it comes to ski jumping in order to have the strength and endurance for a 10-kilometre cross-country course. The athlete who wins the ski jumping stage starts the cross-country race at the front of the field, followed by the rest of the competitions in their order of finish and then they race to the gold line.
While Nordic Combined is a fringe sport in the United States, it is very popular in parts of Europe and Japan.
“It’s really big in countries like Norway, Germany and Austria,” said US Nordic combined athlete Jared Shumate. “These three countries usually dominate the podiums in the World Cup and the Olympics. And obviously we don’t have the same fame.”
Annika Malacinski is one of dozens of women around the world who have sacrificed significant amounts of time and money to claim Olympic gold. Malacinski, 21, who has dual US-Finnish citizenship and is competing for the United States, had dashed high hopes of competing in China in 2018.
The IOC Executive Board was considering rejecting an application that would have allowed her and other women to compete in Nordic Combined at the Beijing Games. IOC sporting director Kit McConnell said at the time that development was needed in terms of universality, competitiveness and succession.
The 2022 season saw nearly 40 women compete at the sport’s highest level, a successful continuation of the inaugural women’s World Cup season a year ago.
“There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be at the Olympics” said Norwegian Ida Marie Hagen, who finished second in the World Cup rankings. “The level keeps getting higher. There are also many athletes from different continents.”
The IOC is proud to point to improvements in gender equality and says the Beijing Games set new standards for female competitors, increasing participation to 45% from 41% in 2018. The Paris 2024 Games is expected to be the first Olympics with as many women as competing men.
Unfortunately, the Olympics Instagram post pointing this out prompted another round of reactions calling for women to be included in Nordic Combined.
“It just makes it so much more intense, especially when the decision is just a week away,” Malacinski told the AP.
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