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Whistler ski jumper takes a break

Zoya Lynch taking season off after years of pursuing her Olympic dream

After attending a press conference on behalf of women’s ski jumping last week, Zoya Lynch has decided to take the season off. Years of training and the frustration of lobbying for the inclusion of her sport in the 2010 Games has taken a toll, she says.

“Most athletes are training and working hard, and excited to have the chance to win medals, and we’re training and working hard just to get to the Olympics,” she said.

“A lot of the other jumpers are frustrated as well and wondering what’s the point, because right now there’s no end goal like the Olympics which every other athlete works towards. Ski jumping is so hard because there is no finish line.

“It’s just super-draining for us, being shut down constantly. I wanted to do something else for a winter.”

Lynch says she has spent the last few years lobbying on behalf of her sport. She was a participant in a complaint launched against the Canadian Human Rights Commission, which was dropped this spring after the federal government promised to lobby the International Olympic Commission on their behalf. She is also part of a discrimination suit against VANOC, which will be heard in B.C. Supreme Court on April 20.

Lynch, who was raised in Calgary and recently made the move to Whistler, says she continue to jump recreationally and as a forerunner at Whistler Olympic Park events. “I’ve decided to take a break from competitive ski jumping,” she said. “I love the actual jumping, but I’m not as into competing.”

Instead, Lynch says she will focus on finishing high school by correspondence and do some freeskiing — mostly recreationally, but she has her eye on a big mountain contest at Red Mountain. “It’s something I want to try out,” she said. “I’m going to enter that competition and see what happens.

“I can’t really say (if I’ll rejoin the team). I guess I’m just going to see how this winter goes. I’m taking on a completely different lifestyle now. For years I’ve been used to waking up and going to the gym every day, training, and going to bed early, but we’ll see.”

If any of the efforts to get women’s ski jumping into the 2010 Olympics succeed, Lynch says it will be tough to stay away.

Women’s ski jumping has been lobbying for inclusion for more than 10 years, and has so far been shut out of the 1998, 2002, 2006 and 2010 Olympic Winter Games. The International Olympic Committee claims that it’s because the sport is not developed enough, without enough athletes and countries taking part. The ski jumpers claim more support than other women’s sports included in the Games in recent years, including women’s bobsleigh, women’s ski cross and women’s snowboardcross.

Among other things, the jumpers are claiming that VANOC is in violation of Canadian laws against federal money going to sporting venues that exclude people based on gender, race or other consideration.

In reply, VANOC claims that Canada’s Bill of Rights does not apply to the International Olympic Committee, which sanctions the Olympic events.

The ski jumpers believe that there is still time to add ski jumping to the 2010 Olympic calendar, and have said they will make their own arrangements for transportation and accommodation if necessary.