It’s more than just ski suits that are being fought for equality in women’s skiing jumping

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Logan Sankey climbs up the metal staircase to reach the top of the Olympic ski jump at Lake Placid, N.Y.

Sankey zips her suit and glides over the ramp. She then takes off, flying down and floating through the air.

Sankey’s suit is a key component of her jump, along with her long skis. This November day, she was wearing a black and white generic suit.

Sankey, a Steamboat Springs resident, says that it’s not about the appearance of the aircraft. He believes it’s more about how they can make it fly farther.

Every female ski jumper in the world has had extra panels around her hips for years. According to the International Ski Federation (FIS), the sport’s competition standards, the extra hip panels are meant to better fit women’s bodies.

Sarah Hendrickson didn’t buy that explanation. Hendrickson, a Park City, Utah Olympic ski jumper, is two times.

Hendrickson says, “They were trying out ways that would accentuate our hips and our curves more.”

Anders Johnson said that it was also difficult to sew the extra panels. Johnson is a coach for the U.S. women’s ski jumping team, and sews their suits.

Johnson says, “From someone who made the suit it was just more parts.” Johnson says that more pieces equals more sewing, and it was just silly.

FIS has removed the extra hip panels from the women’s suits in its 2020 specifications. FIS said that the change made it easier for them to alter and sew. They now look much the same as the men’s suits.

The fight for equality goes beyond ski suits

Although some female ski jumpers considered this a step in the right direction, Sankey said that there are still many big battles ahead of women in the sport.

“It’s certainly not like the suit was altered and everyone was like, “Yeah equality ski jumping!” Sankey agrees.

“It’s like we have suits that can be a bit more functional but let’s change these other areas.”

Women take home 70-80% less in prize money on the professional circuit than men. There are also fewer events and fewer opportunities to compete at the Olympics and the World Cup circuit.

Abigail Strate, a Canadian ski jumper, is competing at the first Olympics in Beijing. She says she’s excited, but frustrated that only two events are open to women and four for men.

Strate says, “That’s so many more chances at an Olympic medal. That’s that much more opportunity to put yourself out there as an athlete.”

Ski jumpers for women will be competing for gold in Saturday’s final round of the individual event, which starts at 6:35 a.m. ET.

In 2014, ski jumping became an Olympic sport for women.

According to the International Ski Federation, the sport’s women’s side is still very young. Although men have been skiing at the Olympics for almost a century, women were not allowed to compete in the Olympics until 2014.

Hendrickson made the historic first female ski jump at Sochi Games. Although she is now retired, she still serves on the FIS athletes commission advocating for more female ski jumpers.

Hendrickson says, “I sit in those 98% men board meetings and just try to give the opinion of what is happening and the future of the sport.”

Although ski jumping is becoming more popular with young girls and women in recent years, Hendrickson states that this growth is not guaranteed. Many of these athletes still work extra jobs to help pay for travel.

She and others want equal pay for women, equal opportunities to compete. They claim they have earned it.