Actress Virginia Madsen (Sideways, Prairie Home Companion, The Haunting) and Title IX Productions, the film company she formed last year, are taking on a good fight – the right for women ski jumpers to compete in the Olympic games.
Titled “Fighting Gravity,” the documentary film follows 15 athletes challenging the International Olympic Committee’s decision to bar them from the upcoming Games in Vancouver. The IOC has rejected a decade-long effort to include women jumpers in the Games, making ski jumping the only Olympic sport exclusively for men. The case is currently making its way through the Canadian court system. Here’s what Madsen had to say:
“To think that in 2009, in a celebrated, international event like the Olympics, women are still dealing with discrimination is pretty shocking. We knew instantly we wanted to throw our support behind this project and get the word out there.”
With ski jumping the only winter Olympic sport that doesn’t include both genders, the female ski jumpers featured in the doc say their rights have been violated. The IOC says women’s ski jumping doesn’t have enough international competitions to merit inclusion.
The most infuriating thing to the ski jumpers isn’t just that they won’t be in Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Olympics. It’s who will be.
Sliders, skiers and shredders of all sorts – bobsled, skeleton, luge, snowboard. And don’t forget the butt of every winter sports joke ever invented: curling.
But women’s ski jumping? As it currently stands, not gonna happen.
American Lindsay Van increased the pressure by winning the first women’s ski jumping World Cup, which was held in the Czech Republic last month.
Men, of course, have been jumping since the mid-1800s. The first World Championships were in 1936. But women have been denied. Though they have been competing for a decade, their first championships were just held.
The argument is always the same. Officials insist the interest and talent isn’t there for women’s ski jumping, even though it apparently is for men. IOC media relations manager Emmanuelle Moreau told The Canadian Press last year, “Any reference to the fact that this is a matter about gender equality is totally inappropriate and misleading.”
World champion Van and Canadian national team member Katie Willis wrote to IOC chief Jacques Rogge last month requesting a meeting while he was in Denver attending the SportAccord convention and IOC executive board meetings. The meeting didn’t happen and the IOC claims they didn’t get the request in time.
If the IOC doesn’t reconsider its stance, the lawsuit filed last May against Vancouver organizers citing gender discrimination will be heard April 20 before a single judge in the British Columbia Supreme Court in Vancouver. Both sides will have two days to make their case. The judge’s ruling is subject to appeal.
“With ski jumping, you can’t just walk out and be top level. It takes years and years,” Van said. “There’s a high level of frustration. It’s frustrating to see people in bobsled and skeleton able to pick it up and the next year they’re in the Olympics. There’s no way that happens in ski jumping. It’s all a little backward.”
Besides being totally not right.
Madsen’s production shingle, which is named after the 1972 law giving women equal opportunity to participate in activities that receive federal funding, seems like the perfect outfit to document this story.