Lake Placid native Nina Lussi is attending Skigymnasium Stams in Austria, a school dedicated to producing world-class athletes, with hopes of one day competing in the Olympics.
When the news came on Wednesday that women's ski jumping would be part of the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, it was something she had been waiting to hear for years.
"I could hardly sit through a whole day of school because I was so anxious to hear the outcome of the meeting," Lussi said. "When finally the great news came through, I didn't react the way I thought I would. I didn't jump around scream or throw my arms in the air. Instead, simply a smile crept into my face. This is something that we have all been dreaming about for so long that it does not even seem real yet."
Lake Placid resident Nina Lussi, pictured here competing in December 2010 at the Olympic Ski Jumping Complex, was thrilled to hear that her sport of ski jumping was added as a women’s event at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games.
(Enterprise file photo — Lou Reuter)
Lussi said that on the way to training Wednesday, she turned to her Austrian teammates and asked them what they were planning on doing in February of 2014.
"They answered with a grin, accompanied by the words, 'Competing with you in the Olympics!'" Lussi said.
Women's ski jumping being added to the Olympics is big news, but it's especially relevant in the Lake Placid area, where girls have been competing in the sport for years at the Olympic Ski Jumping Complex.
"I think it's great, especially for younger girls," said Harvard student Danielle Lussi, who like her younger sister Nina has been jumping since she was a young child. "Everyone does the sport because they love it and that's the true reason, but also it's nice to have that goal. You can have that goal to jump at a Continental Cup, then you can have a goal to jump in a World Cup, and now you can have the goal to go to the World Championships and finally the Olympics."
Ski jumping and Nordic combined, which features ski jumping and cross-country skiing, have been the only Winter Olympic events open exclusively to men.
The IOC twice rejected women's ski jumping for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, saying the sport lacked enough elite competitors. Women jumpers took their case all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada but failed to overturn the IOC decision.
But on Wednesday, the International Olympic Committee executive board approved women's ski jumping for the 2014 games along with men's and women's ski halfpipe, mixed relay in biathlon and team events in luge and figure skating.
"Unbelievable," said Joe Lamb in his first comments to the Enterprise about the decision. "It's great. I'm happy it's finally arrived."
Lamb, who lives in Lake Placid, is a former ski jumper who has been a U.S. Ski Team representative for the International Ski Federation's ski jumping committee. He said it's unfortunate that some women have missed the opportunity to be in the Olympics, but added that a structure had to be set up for the sport to succeed on many levels, including financially. Lamb noted that women ski jumpers started competing in the Continental Cup nearly a decade ago. The first World Championships were in 2009, and the first World Cups will be next winter.
"It's about time, but it was a process that needed to go through so the sport would be safe for women today, so it would grow from this point," Lamb said. "I think the FIS technique, that it took so long, will hopefully be a good platform or serve as a foundation to make it successful in the future. A lot of people say it took a long time, but I don't think they are understanding of the foundation that needed to be set so it could support itself."
Now with that structure in place, athletes including Nina Lussi will look to move up the line and make their bids for the 2014 games. Lussi hopes the attention the sport is getting now because of this decision will draw young girls to ski jumping for years to come.
"I hope that youngsters from all across the country are drawn to the ski jumps in hopes of becoming a future Olympian," Nina Lussi said. "It is amazing to see how far our sport has come just in my lifetime. Just a few years ago Americans didn't even know what ski jumping was, but now our story has found its way onto major TV stations and has been printed in newspapers and magazines across the world."
Saranac Lake ski jumper Annie Frenette, whose brother Peter competed as a U.S. ski jumper at the Vancouver Olympic Winter Games, summed up the feelings of many female ski jumpers.
"We have been hoping for it forever," Frenette said. "Everyone is excited."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.