Tears flowed freely at the Beijing 2022 Winter Games. Tears of joy for Eileen Gu, the Chinese star of the Games, who was crowned in big air on Tuesday 8 February after attempting, and succeeding in, a jump never before seen in a major competition. Tears of distress the day before on the ski jump, during the mixed team event, contested for the first time at the Winter Games.
The reason? A point in the International Ski Federation (FIS) rules that was strictly enforced by the competition officials. It led to the disqualification of five jumpers, members of four national teams. Japan’s Sara Takanashi, Austria’s Daniela Iraschko-Stolz, Germany’s Katharina Althaus, and two Norwegians, Anna Odine Stroem and Silje Opseth, will not be included in the list of winners in this first Olympic event. They have been removed from the lists.
The reason was their jumping suits. They were judged too big by the officials of the Beijing Games. The FIS rules impose dimensions in relation to the size of the jumpers, both men and women. Clothing that is too large is considered to give the athlete an advantage during the flight phase.
This first edition of a mixed competition – two men and two women – was supposed to help promote ski jumping and meet the IOC’s parity requirements, but it turned into a war of words.
After the announcement of her disqualification, Katharina Althaus did not hold back her criticism to the media: “We just pulled the crap card. That is how you destroy nations, development and the entire sport.”
Silje Opseth, one of the two Norwegians disqualified, admitted she did not understand the jury’s decision. She explained that she was wearing the same suit two days earlier for the qualifying event. The officials did not make any comments to her. “I don’t know what to say, I’m really shaken up,” she said after the final, quoted by Reuters. I’m sorry I was disqualified.”
The same lack of understanding in the Japanese camp. Sara Takanashi’s coach told the NHK channel that the officials had judged that the jumper’s suit was too wide in the thighs. But she had used the same suit in qualifying.
At the International Ski Federation (FIS), the response was very formal. One of its representatives, Aga Baczkowska, told Norwegian broadcaster NRK that it was up to each team to ensure that their suits complied with the rules. “The jumping suit must in all places and parts be tight-fitting the athlete’s body,” she said.
The Canadian Ski Federation, through one of its officials, defended this position: “It’s a very common thing to happen in ski jumping, and the fact that it happened at the Olympics just goes to show that they were taking the rules pretty strictly and seriously.”
No doubt. But the German camp does not share this version of the case. For Horst Huttel, the sports director, the competition at the Beijing Games was a “parody“. “This is a parody, but I am not laughing.”
Final result: Gold for Slovenia, silver for the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), bronze for Canada. The countries affected by the disqualifications remained off the podium.