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The International Ski Federation (FIS) disqualified five women’s ski jumpers because their suits were ‘too baggy’, leaving the sport mired in controversy on the biggest stage at the Beijing Winter Olympics.
The competition had been heralded as a step forward for women in ski jumping as it offered them a second chance to compete on the biggest stage in the sport, but there were tears before the end of the competition after the disqualifications.
The final of the inaugural mixed team event in China descended into chaos when several athletes – some with serious medal hopes – had jumps chalked off because their suits were deemed to have given them an 'aerodynamic advantage' because they were too big.
The move came after the suits were inspected mid-competition and led to German Katharina Althaus and Japanese hopeful Sara Takanashi being disqualified, as well as jumpers from Norway and Austria.
Althaus told reporters: “We were looking forward to the second competition at the Olympics. FIS destroyed that with this action - they destroyed women's ski jumping,”
“Our names are now [out] there, and we just pulled the c**p card. That is how you destroy nations, development and the entire sport.”
Germany’s head of Nordic events at the Olympic Winter Games, Horst Huttel, added: “This is a parody, but I am not laughing...
“It is outrageous that this happens with the four biggest ski-jump nations,”
Norway’s head of ski jumping Clas Brede Braathen added that the whole affair was ‘very painful’ for the disqualified athletes and their teammates, stating that the issue could and should have been sorted out before the competition even started.
He said: “The sport of ski jumping has experienced one of its darker days...,
“I'm lost for words, really. I'm in pain on behalf of our sport.”
Because of the nature of ski jumping, wind resistance is key in the sport, meaning that equipment – including suits – is regularly checked to ensure that there is no foul play.
The FIS said that the opportunity was there before the games to test the new suits, which had been designed for the games, but few nations took it.
In the end, the competition was won by Slovenia, with the Russian Olympic Committee taking silver, leaving Canada with an unlikely bronze.
In total, two Norwegians, one German, an Austrian, and a Japanese athlete were penalised.
One of the disqualified Norwegians, Silje Ospeth said: “I think they checked it in a new way today compared to what they had done previously, I think it's very strange that they would suddenly change how they do it in the middle of a tournament,
“I don't know what to say. I'm really just shaken. I'm sorry that I was disqualified today.”
The tournament judges declined to comment when asked by Norwegian journalists.