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Women Interviews-Lindsey Van: Reigning World Champion in Ski Jumping

As the Winter Vancouver Olympics approach this Friday, Lindsey Van, reigning world champion should be busy training and preparing for the event. However this eight time Continental Cup winner has recently been making headlines for much more than her expert ski jumping skills. Lindsay talks about the lawsuit she just lost against the Vancouver Olympic Committee for excluding women ski jumpers from the 2010 Winter Olympics and the controversy that surrounded the case. She also shares what is in store for her future now that her career was put on halt.

Age? 25

Places you have lived? Detroit Michigan, Park City Utah, Lake Placid New York

Places you would like to live? In the mountains.

What do you do? Professional women’s ski jumper who won gold in the inaugural women’s ski jumping event at the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in 2009.

As the reigning world champion in women’s ski jumping, winning eight Continental Cup victories during your career, do you think that these honors are as valued as the awards/achievements that men get in the same category?

I feel that my accomplishments are valued highly among the Ski Jumping community, but not among the whole sports community.  I think this is because women’s ski jumping is not in the Olympics, therefore not held to the same standards.

Because ski jumping has been around for almost a century, how does this affect the mindset of the people who run the program? Does their mindset tend to be much more traditional in comparison to other sports?

Ski Jumping is one of the most traditional sports in the Olympics.  This does create somewhat of a barrier for us.  People running the sport want to keep it traditional, thus keeping the women out.  Adding women to the Olympics, and other high profile events would change the face of the sport and I don’t think they are ready for that.

When you and the fourteen other female ski jumpers lost the case against the Vancouver Olympic Committee for only allowing male ski jumpers to compete in the 2010 Olympics, you were quoted calling the Canadian legal system as “weak” and saying that the International Olympic Committee was “like the Taliban of the Olympics.” Do you still stand by these comments and do you believe this is solely an act of sexism or is there more to the story than that?

Of course there is always more to the story.  I feel like the Canadian court system works in most cases, but not in this one.  I think they should have been able to do more to stay within the lines of their laws.  Specifically, the law that says if government money is being spent to use a facility both men and women can use it.  I find it strange that the International Olympic Committee can go into any country and do whatever they please, and they do not have to follow the laws of the host nation.

Given that not being included in the Olympics may affect your pay and endorsements, what are your plans for your career?  Do you think that your fellow women ski jumpers will continue to practice hard and grow their talent and skills?

My plans now are to continue working and finishing school within the next two years.  I would like to still be involved in Ski Jumping in some form. I feel the sport will continue to move forward in the right directions.  The athletes around the world have not given up and will continue to fight for equality in the sport.

Given the outcome of the case, are you still motivated to train as seriously?

At this time I have lost some motivation to train and compete.  Some of it has to do with the lawsuit and the way my career was heading.  I am taking a step back now to look at my life and my options, but I plan to train and compete at the highest level again.

Do you feel that media coverage of women’s ski jumping is a good thing whether it is positive or negative?

There is always media coverage of the sport and this issue.  People need to know about the issue regardless of whether the coverage is positive or negative.

When you were referred to as a role model for young girls ski jumpers, you said in an interview with Ladies-Skijumping.com that you “don’t feel like a good person to model on.”  Why do you feel this way?

I think I took a different course as an athlete compared to many other athletes.  Overall I feel like I am a good role model for the sport as a dedicated athlete, and as a pioneer pushing the sport forward.

Do you feel women are less popular in sports if they are tough or aggressive?

I think people are more interested when a woman has this kind of behavior.  It is not as expected among women, but more among men.

For you personally, how much was your athletic performance was a mental effort and how much of it was?

Ski Jumping is a very mental sport.  I would say for me 80% mental, and 20% physical.

Thinking about players like tennis stars Serena Williams and Svetlana Kuznetsova who have been scrutinized for weighing too much and then the recent accusations on skier Lindsey Vonn by Austrian coaches who suggested she had an edge over other skiers because of her weight, is this a pressure that female athletes feel regularly? Has this personally affected you?

Yes, it has.  I have a lot of muscle and have been scrutinized because of my size before.  All women look different and have a different muscle structure.  Some tend to have more muscle than others, but clearly muscle is needed in sport.  Muscle weighs more than fat, so it is what it is.

Who or what inspires you?

Other female athletes who have been pioneers in their sport.

Is there something that people are surprised to find out you enjoy?

I love pickles; I think they are my favorite food.

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