Brother and sister skiers Anders and Alissa Johnson have trained together in the ski jump for their entire careers, and both are considered among the best jumpers in the country. But at the Olympics today, Alissa will be on the sidelines while her brother goes for the gold.
"I'm here [only] to support unfortunately," Alissa, 19, said. "I wish I was here to train and jump, but I'm here to support Anders."
The International Ski Federation has ruled that ski jumping is too dangerous for women, making it the only winter Olympic sport that has male competitors and no female counterparts.
"It's like jumping down from, let's say, about two meters on the ground about a thousand times a year, which seems not to be appropriate for ladies from a medical point of view," the federation's president Gian Franco Kasper said on National Public Radio.
But female ski jumpers disagree.
"I don't know what he's talking about because clearly he has not seen us jump in the last two years," said Lindsey Van, the second-ranked female ski jumper in the world. "Our technique is as good, if not better than, the men."
Not Just a Man's World
In separate competitions, women often score higher than the men. Alissa showed she could compete with the men when she made the cut in their division of the 2003 national championships.
"Open your eyes," Alissa said. "I mean it's the 21st century. It's time to take this more seriously."
The next generation of female ski jumpers may have their chance this spring when the International Ski Federation votes on whether to include women's ski jumping in the 2010 Games in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Anders, the youngest jumper on the male team, hopes the women will get a shot.
"Any 120 that any guys can jump, the top girls can jump," Anders, 16, said. "Those girls have proven themselves."