SOCHI, RUSSIA (NBC) -
Ski jumping's Olympic roots go back to the first Winter Games held in 1924. But never before had women been included in Olympic ski jumping until now. The Olympic Zone's Brian Schactman has the story of 29-year-old American Lindsey Van, a world champion and pioneer whose fight for inclusion has finally paid off.
The big day for Van and the rest of the field comes Wednesday when women's ski jumping makes its long-awaited Olympic debut in Sochi.
“I first started ski jumping when I was seven years old. When I took that first ski jump, it was like oh. It was just instant that, you know, that's what I wanted to do,” said Lindsey.
But for Lindsey Van, competing at the Olympics had one major obstacle: women's ski jumping was not an Olympic event.
“I'm stubborn. And when people tell me no, I just want to show them, yes. Yes I can,” Van said.
In 2009, van won the sport's first world championship, making her the face of women's ski jumping and the spokesperson for the sport's inclusion at the Olympics.
“Somebody had to do it. I felt like I really had nothing to lose at that point,” Lindsey said.
Leading up to the Vancouver games, van became a lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against the Olympic Organizing Committee charging that exclusion violated Canada's anti-discrimination laws.
Although the lawsuit was unsuccessful, the International Olympic Committee decided in 2011 to add the event for Sochi with one caveat: a demonstration of Olympic caliber competition at the 2011 World Championships.
With a solid showing, women's ski jumping at long last became an Olympic event.
“I’ve been fighting for this for twenty years and now I don't have to talk about what could happen, or what opportunities we don't have. Cause it's there now,” said Van.
“You know, there's a lot of people out there that don't get to do what they love to do. I, you know, I've kind of made a career and job out of my favorite thing to do. It's pretty amazing,” she said.