Women still fighting for equality in sports

ALISON KORN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:02 PM ET

Add my name to those disappointed by the B.C. Supreme Court’s decision that it can’t force the International Olympic Committee to include women’s ski-jumping in the 2010 Vancouver Games.

And, add my admiration for those same women who announced today that they would appeal.

This has been a 50-50 week for women’s sport, a ratio that sounds like equality but is, sadly, far from it.

The bad news is that female ski-jumpers aren’t allowed into the Olympics because nobody can stop the IOC from being sexist, since it’s not subject to the laws of any country.

The good news is that Welland’s Stacey Allaster, whom one could call the godmother of big-time tennis management, was promoted this week to chief executive officer of the WTA Tour. While Tennis Canada was thrilled to share the happy news that one of its own has done so well, the reaction among allies to the women’s ski-jumping issue was particularly acid. As it should be.

“It’s disappointing that, in this day and age, we are still fighting this battle in Canada, where we have such a strong reputation for gender equity,” said Nicole Smith, the chair of the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women in Sport. “However, we realize that since the International Olympic Committee is not bound by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the court could not make an effective ruling over a body that operates outside of Canada’s jurisdiction.”

Smith was pleased to see that judge Lauri Ann Fenlon recognized the case was inherently discriminatory. Hence the “moral” victory, meaning the female athletes are right, but sorry, nothing can be done. It’s no consolation.

“As the judge stated, the exclusion of these athletes from the Winter Olympics is discriminatory,” Smith said. “CAAWS wants to encourage young women to continue pursuing their athletic dreams and will continue to support the female ski-jumpers in their quest for Olympic equity with male ski-jumpers.”

At the same time, AthletesCAN, the association of national team athletes, praised the 15 female ski-jumpers for their quest and hailed them as athlete leaders. They are all teenagers and 20-somethings, so it will be interesting to see how their life paths are influenced by this experience.

In time, I expect we’ll view the female ski-jumpers as the modern-day Justine Blaineys. Remember her? She was the girl in the 1980s who won the right to play hockey with the boys after taking the case to the Supreme Court of Canada. Her crusade wasn’t always enjoyable, but she persevered for years because she was right, and ultimately influenced the law. We should wish the same on today’s group of female ski-jumpers.

“All 15 athletes demonstrated great determination and leadership,” observed AthletesCAN president Andrew Nisker. “The results in this case are far from the thrill of competing in the Olympics. However, the actions of these athletes have put women’s ski-jumping on the map and will no doubt inspire women in sport all over the world. They are true champions to us.”

Champions, they are. Even more so today, because they decided not to quit. As Canadian jumper Katie Willis put it: “We’re competitors. We won’t give up.”

Cereal goes gold

One of the healthiest cereals in the regular aisle — ignoring all the organic stuff – is 100% whole grain Cheerios in the yellow box. Buying some also allows you to support your choice of aspiring Olympians on the General Mills roster.

Now, Cheerios is glittering up its cereal box campaign, with a special edition “Gold Box” that allows Canadians to go to www.everydaycelebrations.ca/aspiringolympians and have the company donate $5 to an athlete, instead of the usual $1. The gold boxes will be arriving in stores this week or early next, and will last until around mid-August.

General Mills has committed to providing each of its 28 cereal box athletes with a minimum of $5,000 through this program. Canadians can help maximize this amount to $25,000 per athlete by submitting more PIN codes.

alison_korn@hotmail.com


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