Winter Olympics may not include Nordic combined for 1st time

Jun 14, 2022, 11:37 PM | Updated: Jun 15, 2022, 11:40 am
FILE - United States' Annika Malacinski competes during the Nordic combined World Cup mixed team no...

FILE - United States' Annika Malacinski competes during the Nordic combined World Cup mixed team normal hill HS 106, in Val di Fiemme, Italy, Jan. 7, 2022. Malacinski is one of dozens of women around the world who are in it for the glory, sacrificing a lot of time and money to go for Olympic gold. (AP Photo/Elvis Piazza, File)

(AP Photo/Elvis Piazza, File)

              FILE - Billy Demong, a member of USA Nordic's board of directors, speaks during the cross country stage of the nordic combined 10 kilometers for placement on the U.S. Olympic team, at the Mount Van Hoevenberg Olympic Sports Complex on Dec. 24, 2021, in Lake Placid, N.Y.  Nordic combined, which uniquely tests skiers on jaw-dropping jumps and heart-pounding trails, has been a part of the Winter Olympics since 1924. It is also the only Olympic sport without women.(AP Photo/Hans Pennink, File)
            
              FILE - Jasper Good (2), Jared Schumate (3) and Taylor Fletcher (4) compete during the cross-country stage of the Nordic combined 10 kilometers at the U.S. Olympic team trials at the Mount Van Hoevenberg Olympic Sports Complex on Friday, Dec. 24, 2021, in Lake Placid, N.Y. Nordic combined, which uniquely tests skiers on jaw-dropping jumps and heart-pounding trails, has been a part of the Winter Olympics since 1924. It is also the only Olympic sport without women. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink, File)
            
              FILE - United States' Annika Malacinski competes during the Nordic combined World Cup mixed team normal hill HS 106, in Val di Fiemme, Italy, Jan. 7, 2022. Malacinski is one of dozens of women around the world who are in it for the glory, sacrificing a lot of time and money to go for Olympic gold. (AP Photo/Elvis Piazza, File)

Nordic combined, which uniquely tests skiers on jaw-dropping jumps and heart-pounding trails, has been a part of the Winter Olympics since 1924. Its time might be up.

It is the only Olympic sport without women and the International Olympic Committee is due to make a decision later this month about whether to allow women to compete in Nordic combined at the 2026 Milan-Cortina d’Ampezzo Games.

There is the possibility, however, that Nordic combined is dropped entirely from the Olympics, according to athletes and advocates.

“What I heard loud and clear in back channels is that the solution to take care of the gender equity dirty secret is to take men out of the program for 2026,” said Billy Demong, a five-time Olympian in Nordic combined and member of USA Nordic’s board of directors. “To take away one of the original sports from the first Winter Olympics would be tragic, short-sighted and misguided.”

The IOC said final decisions on the 2026 Olympics program of medal events are scheduled to be decided at a June 24 meeting of its executive board, chaired by president Thomas Bach.

“We’re seeing sports such as ski mountaineering added and I’m hearing the IOC does not want to increase the number of athletes and the solution is take men out of Nordic combined,” Demong said Tuesday in an interview with The Associated Press.

Men in the Nordic combined have been publicly pushing on social media and elsewhere for women to be included, adding a mixed team format as another Olympic medal event, and are now bracing for their future as athletes on the world’s stage.

Jasper Good, who competed for the U.S. earlier this year at the Beijing Olympics, said he was “blindsided” by the possibility.

“Information is trickling to us from athlete groups from around the world and national governing bodies, and most of us didn’t realize the sport is in jeopardy,” he said.

International Ski Federation Nordic combined race director Lasse Ottesen said he has not heard officially from the IOC about men potentially being eliminated from the Olympic program.

“We do hear speculation from different sides,” Ottesen said Wednesday. “If the IOC, for some reason, would make a decision not to include women for the ’26 events, what would happen with the men’s? Would that be sort of a signal to say you’re on for the ’26 events, but for ’30, we are thinking gender equality and then the men are out.”

Nordic combined skiers must have finesse and fearlessness for ski jumping while training to have the strength and stamina necessary for a 10-kilometer cross-country course. The athlete who wins the ski jumping stage starts the cross-country race in the front of the pack, followed by the rest of the competition in their order of finish and then they race to the line for gold.

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,” U.S. Olympic Nordic combined skier Jared Shumate said. “Those three countries usually dominate the world cup podiums, and Olympic podiums. And obviously, we don’t have quite the same fame.”

Annika Malacinski is one of dozens of women around the world who have sacrificed a lot of time and money to go for Olympic gold. The 21-year-old Malacinski, who has American-Finnish dual citizenship and competes for the U.S., had high hopes of competing in China dashed in 2018.

The IOC executive board considered denied an application then that would have allowed her and other women to compete in Nordic combined at the Beijing Games. IOC sports director Kit McConnell said then that development in terms of the universality, competitiveness,and following was needed.

During the 2022 season, nearly 40 women competed at the highest level of the sport in a successful follow to the debut World Cup season for women a year ago.

“There’s no reason that we shouldn’t be in the Olympics,” said Norway’s Ida Marie Hagen, who finished No. 2 in the World Cup standings. “The level is getting higher. There’s also a lot of athletes from different continents.”

The IOC is proud to point to improvements made toward gender equality, saying the Beijing Games set new marks for female competitors by increasing participation to 45% from 41% in 2018. The 2024 Paris Games are expected to be the first Olympics with as many women as men competing.

Alas, the Olympics’ Instagram post to point that out led to another round a flurry of responses calling for women to be included in Nordic combined.

“It makes it just so much more intense, especially when the decision is only a week away,” Malacinski told the AP.

___

AP Sports Writer Graham Dunbar in Geneva contributed.

___

Follow Larry Lage at https://twitter.com/larrylage

___

More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/winter-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Qatar hires coach Carlos Queiroz through the 2026 World Cup

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Former Portugal and Iran coach Carlos Queiroz has worked at the last four World Cups and was hired on Monday by Qatar to aim for a fifth straight at the next edition hosted in North America. The Qatar Football Association hired former Real Madrid coach Queiroz until 2026 to take charge […]
2 days ago
Utah Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen (23) and Charlotte Hornets guard Dennis Smith Jr. (8) battle for ...
Associated Press

Jazz owner aims to showcase Utah with NBA All-Star Game

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — When the NBA All-Star Game returns to Salt Lake City for the first time in three decades, Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith anticipates the event will help build Utah into a destination for other major sporting events. “All the lights will be on us, but I think it is one […]
2 days ago
FILE - In this Sept. 8, 2019, file photo, former NFL official Mike Pereira walks across the field b...
Associated Press

Fox’s Pereira knows pressure Super Bowl officials are facing

Mike Pereira knows the pressure Carl Cheffers and his officiating crew will be under during Super Bowl 57 between the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles. That’s because he either hired or promoted most of them. As the NFL’s vice president of officiating in 2008, Pereira promoted Cheffers from side judge to referee. After 14 […]
2 days ago
FILE - Chelsea's Pedro, left, and Newcastle United's Christian Atsu vie for the ball during the Eng...
Associated Press

Former Chelsea forward Atsu missing after Turkey earthquake

Former Chelsea and Newcastle forward Christian Atsu is missing and believed to be trapped under rubble following the powerful earthquake that struck Turkey on Monday and left more than 2,500 people dead. The Ghana international, who plays for Turkish club Hatayspor, is thought to be in a building that was destroyed, Hatayspor spokesman Mustafa Özat […]
2 days ago
FILE - Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, right, walks back to the bench as head coach Darvin...
Associated Press

LeBron’s Los Angeles era, as told by coach Darvin Ham

(Editors’ Note: Darvin Ham is in his first season as coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. He was a longtime NBA assistant coach and as a player helped the Detroit Pistons win the NBA title in 2004.) When I got hired to coach the Los Angeles Lakers, one of the first things that I saw […]
2 days ago
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady stands on the field before an NFL football game against ...
Associated Press

Brady will not move into Fox announcing booth until 2024

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Tom Brady will not go immediately from the playing field to the broadcast booth. Brady told Colin Cowherd during Monday’s episode of “The Herd” on FS1 and Fox Sports Radio that he will not start his broadcasting career with Fox until the 2024 season. The seven-time Super Bowl champion — who […]
2 days ago
Winter Olympics may not include Nordic combined for 1st time