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Female ski jumpers say getting into 2010 Winter Games still possible

VANCOUVER, B.C. - With three months to go until the 2010 Winter Olympics, world champion ski jumper Lindsay Van is training for the Games just like the hundreds of other athletes hoping for a spot on the podium.

VANCOUVER, B.C. - With three months to go until the 2010 Winter Olympics, world champion ski jumper Lindsay Van is training for the Games just like the hundreds of other athletes hoping for a spot on the podium.

But in addition to the work-outs, she's also spending her time in court, one of 14 female jumpers suing Vancouver Olympic organizers over whether the Charter of Rights and Freedoms means her sport must legally be part of the Games.

The time in stuffy courtrooms might be better spent on a mountain, but Van said it's important.

"It's not something I picked, it just came along with my love of the sport and trying to push the sport forward to where it belongs - in the Olympics," she said Thursday outside the B.C. Appeal Court, the latest battleground in the ongoing fight between the ski jumpers and the Vancouver Olympic committee.

A panel of appeal court judges are hearing the case this week and while they could issue a ruling immediately after arguments conclude, the question remains whether a women's event is even possible at this late stage.

Either party could ask the Supreme Court of Canada for leave to appeal the case, a process that could take several more weeks or even months.

Both sides say it's too early to speculate on an appeal to the country's highest court, but meanwhile, the plans for the Games are speeding along. Organizers are putting the final touches on transportation, security and ticketing plans, among other things.

"We don't have a contingency plan for this and really one could ask the question, why would we?" said Renee Smith-Valade, vice-president of communications for the committee known as VANOC.

"We have a sport program, we have a sport program that was given to us by the (International Olympic Committee) and it does not include women's ski jumping, so we're moving forward and have always moved forward with the sport program as given to us by the IOC and until that should change there is no reason to have a contingency plan."

But Deedee Corradini, president of Women's Ski Jumping USA, said it's not beyond the realm of possibility to include the sport in the Games, even with limited notice.

"All we are asking for is one event," she said outside court.

"There are many days in the calendar when the ski jumps are available and open, the volunteers are going to be there."

Men's ski jumping is the first event of the Games on Feb. 12.

The woman want the courts to rule that VANOC must either include a women's ski jumping event in the 2010 Games, or cancel the men's event.

The organizing committee is arguing that the benefits under the Charter sought by the women can't be remedied or affected by existing Canadian law or government agencies, as the decision on what sports are at a Games are made by the IOC.

The B.C. Appeal Court is being asked to decide whether a lower court judge erred when she ruled that while the Games were a government activity and subject to the Charter of Rights, it's the IOC that decides which sports are included and they aren't subject to the Charter.

"Nothing VANOC did triggered this lawsuit to begin with," lawyer George Macintosh told the appeal court.

"It's about what somebody else did."

The women argue that while the decision may ultimately rest with the IOC, that doesn't mean Vancouver can break the law.

The IOC voted in 2006 not to include women's ski jumping at the Games, saying the sport had not met the required technical criteria.

It will be on the program for the upcoming 2010 Youth Olympic Games and the international body that governs ski jumping has said they will press for its inclusion for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

"I thought if we gave them time to deal with it, they would deal with it," their lawyer Ross Clark. "I think they still have time."

 
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