Sochi Winter Olympics Just Featured The First-Ever Female Ski Jumpers

Yesterday, on a beautiful, clear night in the mountain resort of Krasnaya Polyana, Olympic history was made. For the very first time, a female Olympic ski jumping champion was crowned, making Sochi 2014 the first Winter Olympics ever where both genders have competed in every event. Germany's Carina Vogt won the gold medal, ousting the favorite, Sara Takanashi of Japan, who finished in fourth place. Austria's Daniela Iraschko-Stolz took the silver, and the bronze went to French competitor Coline Mattel.

So how is this the first year in Olympic history women could participate in ski jumping? For decades, members of the International Ski Federation and the International Olympic Committee claimed that ski jumping could harm women's reproductive organs, a pseudo-scientific supposition that has obviously been proven false. We can thank U.S. ski jumper Lindsey Van for turning the tide on that one; Van was at the forefront of the movement to allow women to compete.

Van herself finished fifteenth, behind fellow American Jessica Jerome, who placed tenth. Nineteen-year-old US teammate Sarah Hendrickson, who tore her ACL and MCL last year, placed twenty-first. Although she didn't medal, Hendrickson was the first woman to jump in yesterday's competition, earning herself a special place in the history books.

"When I was given the bib number I didn't really realize the significance of it, that I was the first girl ever to jump in an Olympic event," Hendrickson said. "That's something special to grasp onto. I'm proud of that."

Tuesday was a landmark moment for gender equality, but 29-year-old Van isn't done yet. There are two jumps at Sochi's RusSki Gorki Jumping Center, one 95 meters high and the other 125 meters high. In this year's competition, the women were only allowed to jump in one event on the lower hill, while the men competed in three on both hills.

Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

Van told USA Today that in the next Olympics she wants women to be competing at the higher level.

"In four years this sport is going to be at a high level," Lindsey Van said. She motioned toward the two ski jumps in the distance. "Hopefully we'll be on the big one."

"I want to be on the big hill very much," said Van, who was the face of the 10-year fight for Olympic inclusion. "Of course we want to be there. I want to catch up with the boys."

Although the fight for equality in their sport is far from over, Tuesday's events marked an important step on the journey. This year's competition has greatly raised the profile of ski jumping, which should help attract more competitors — and maybe even convince organizers to add more women's ski jumping events — to the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang.

Images: Getty Images