Without women’s Nordic combined, 2022 Olympic Games won’t be gender-equal

Shelby Reardon
Steamboat Pilot & Today

Steamboat Springs could have qualified more Olympians this year if men, women had the same opportunities

Annika Malacinski jumps in a Continental Cup event at Howelsen Hill in 2018.
Leah Vann/Steamboat Pilot & Today archives

Annika Malacinski has spent the last few weeks watching friends, teammates and familiar faces get named to the Team USA Olympic roster.

The Steamboat Springs Nordic combined skier has been earning regular top-15 finishes at World Cup events this winter, a feat grand enough to earn many a spot in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. But Malacinski can’t compete at the Games because women’s Nordic combined is not yet an Olympic sport.

“Seeing everyone post it on Instagram, being super happy and writing, ‘It’s been my whole lifelong dream to go to the Olympics,’ it’s been so surreal and such a downer,” Malacinski said. “Every time I see something when I wake up, I’m constantly being reminded that I am in a sport where we don’t have equality.”

Malacinski is one of three women’s Nordic combined national team members, all of whom hail from Steamboat and could have potentially earned a spot at the Games this year.

The 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing are the most gender-equal Winter Olympics ever. However, there is still one large jump — pun intended — before the Games can be considered equal. Nordic combined is still the only sport in both the Summer and Winter Olympics in which women do not compete.

Over the next couple weeks, athletes will compete in 109 events at the 2022 Games. Of those, men will take part in 52 and women 46. Additionally, there are 11 mixed events that feature male and female competitors.

Of the 15 sports at the Beijing Games, 12 are gender-equal with the same amount of events for men and women. Luge, ski jumping and Nordic combined are not among them.

Luge has two events for men, one for women and one mixed, while ski jumping has three men’s events, one women’s event and one mixed. Of course, Nordic combined has zero women’s events, as compared to three in which the men compete.

Shelby Reardon/Steamboat Pilot & Today graphic

Those who want to see women’s Nordic combined in the Olympics have been told to meet the standards required of a new sport, even though men have competed in Nordic combined in every Winter Games since the first in 1924.

To be fair, the women’s competitions took a while to take hold, as few girls grew up participating in the sport, which was long considered not for women.

In order to be recognized by the International Olympic Committee, a sport must meet many standards, most of which pertain to how many countries produce athletes that compete at a high level.

In 2018, the International Olympic Committee decided not to include women’s Nordic combined in Beijing. The sport has grown a lot since then, though.

According to a 2021 document from the International Ski Federation, there were 170 female athletes registered with a FIS code across all levels, up from 77 in 2015.

In the 2020-21 winter, the best women competed in the first-ever World Cup and the inaugural World Championships, both of which were won by Tara Geraghty-Moats, a Vermonter and longtime advocate of women’s ski jumping and Nordic combined.

After lifting the crystal globe last winter, the award given to the overall World Cup standings leader at the conclusion of the year, Geraghty-Moats decided to compete in biathlon. She did so for a variety of reasons, but she’s still on “team women’s Nordic combined.”

Vermont resident and US team member Tara Geraghty-Moats finished fifth at the first-ever women's Nordic combined World Championships in Oberstdorf, Germany last week.

Last week, she posted on Instagram reminding her followers, along with anyone else willing to read it, that the 2022 Olympics are not yet equal.

She wrote that she will continue to be patient and see if the sport will debut in 2026, but she didn’t want people to mistake patience with complacency.

“It’s a delicate balance,” Geraghty-Moats said. “I try to be patient and understanding it’s a complex, political issue and also trying to get the word out there that this is not OK. It’s not OK to just accept this.”

The IOC is expecting to decide in June whether women’s Nordic combined will be on the docket in 2026 in Italy.

Malacinski’s disappointment in not making the Games doesn’t take away from her excitement about the Olympics.

She plans to watch Team USA, especially those from Steamboat. She was hoping to cheer on her younger brother Niklas, but he didn’t end up making the men’s Nordic combined team.

“We will end up going together in 2026 then,” Malacinski said.

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