By Peter Jerome
My trip to Russia felt like a trip down a flume. No matter how much I tried to keep up, I invariably ended up just hanging on, both physically and emotionally. It got to the point where I began to pre-position myself for the most important events two hours early just to ensure I didn’t completely miss them.
There was so much going on all the time, at once, every day. This was complicated by the availability of complimentary tickets which, for some events at least, seemed to be plentiful. Definitely more cool things to see and do than time to do it at the Sochi Games.
For me of course, my trip was centered around ski jumping. My son Andrew and I snagged tickets for the men’s normal hill ski jumping competition on Sunday, Feb. 9. Imagine our surprise when my daughter Jessica showed up and met us in the stands after her training jumps earlier in the day. Just another face in the crowd. As we marched towards Tuesday, Feb. 11 —THE DAY — there were the usual jitters. I hoped the weather held, nobody got hurt, and our team, more specifically my daughter, knocked it out of the park.
I happened across Simon Ammann, four-time men’s ski jumping Olympic Gold medalist, in lobby of the U.S. Ski Team hotel in Roza Khutor on Monday, Feb. 10. We actually had met years earlier when he was training in Park City. He was polite until I told him I was Jessica Jerome’s dad, then he opened up, complemented me on her flying, and genuinely shared his thoughts and impressions of the ski jumps. He said of the two hills at Sochi, the large hill was a much better hill and easier to compete on. He thought the normal hill was quirkier – It didn’t fly as well and required extra height and distance to break out. I just nodded my head and listened and could only imagine what he was talking about.
When the moment came, the competition went flawlessly. An exciting and close contest. Unlike the men’s competition, there were no falls. It was over in a flash.
For those of us who had been involved in this struggle to get a women's ski jumping event added to the Olympic Games, there was a feeling not so much of competition but of camaraderie. Like a large family coming together for a special holiday. One coach, Fabian Ebenhoch, had over the years been the women’s coach for three different countries (AUS, ITA, SUI). Yes, it was finally happening. Not because the system worked and the good guys did the right thing. It was happening because a group of very dedicated and tenacious young women wouldn’t take no for an answer and kept at it. Watching from the stands I felt excitement, relief, and closure. Sort of…
I wanted more. Restricting the women to a lone event on the normal hill was ridiculous. Staring me right in the face and joined at the hip was the large hill. I can only imagine how the athletes felt. They compete on large hill in World Cup competition. But not here. To be denied this opportunity, literally a few feet to the left, was ridiculous.
While in Sochi, we heard rumblings that the women will not get a large hill event in the Games — not for at least another EIGHT years. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Of course not. These are the same guys who made the women wait 90 years, almost an entire century, to realize their Olympic dreams.
But, we're going to keep pushing for parity. It's the right thing to do.
Peter Jerome is father to Jessica Jerome and is the founder of the nonprofit Women's Ski Jumping USA. "Jumper Dads at Sochi" is a periodic blog by Peter Jerome and Bill Hendrickson who came to watch their daughters make history at the Sochi Olympic Winter Games.