The International Olympic Committee decided on Friday not to add a women’s Nordic combined event to the 2026 Winter Games in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, a devastating setback for dozens of women who have dedicated their lives at the event in recent years and a potential fatal blow to one of the premier Winter Olympic competitions.
The men will continue to compete in Nordic combined, which demands excellence in ski jumping and cross-country skiing. But their event is now under threat for the 2030 Games as the Olympic committee has prioritized sports that can achieve gender equity.
Austrian Karl Stoss, a member of the Olympic committee‘s executive committee, said the survival of Nordic combined would depend on the sport showing “significant positive development, especially with participation and audiences”.
Stoss noted that only 10 countries have sent athletes to the women’s Nordic combined world championships in 2021.
“It’s not the achievement of universality,” Stoss said. “It’s very interesting for us in European countries, but outside of Europe you can’t really find athletes doing this sport.”
Kit McConnell, IOC sporting director, said the organization had decided to allow men’s competition to continue in 2026 because it would not be fair for athletes to eliminate their sport just three and a half years before the Games.
Leaders of the international governing body for skiing, the FIS, have spent the better part of a decade establishing a women’s Nordic combined World Cup circuit and world championship.
They had proposed a women’s competition at the Olympics with 30 top athletes. But knowing that the IOC had limited the number of athletes at the Games to 2,900 and wanted to include new sports, Nordic Combined proposed to reduce the number of competitors in the Men’s Nordic Combined by 15, so that the total number of athletes for sport would only increase by 15.
Annika Malacinski, 21, the top American in Nordic combined, has put her full-time studies on hold for three years to reach the highest level of her sport.
“How could they? How dare they?” Malacinski said of the Olympic committee. “The time and effort I have put into building this sport with so many amazing girls around the world and for the IOC to tell us that we are not not enough ?”
Nordic combined race director Lasse Ottesen of Norway called the decision a “sad day” for the sport.
“The development of women’s Nordic combined in recent years has been more than impressive, so the next logical step would have been their participation,” Ottesen said. “The board’s lack of confidence in the future development of our discipline and the visible misapprehension of the achievements of our women are shocking.”
The IOC tried to soften the blow to women by noting that it had adjusted other events so that 47% of athletes in 2026 will be women. Among other changes, women’s ski jumping will include competition on the large hill in addition to the smaller normal hill, and there will be more women’s bobsledders as well as a women’s doubles luge event. In addition, each of the Nordic Combined disciplines will continue to exist as individual events.
Opponents of the inclusion of Nordic combined for either men or women questioned its appropriateness.
A century ago, when cross-country skiing and ski jumping were essentially the only types of skiing that existed, a combined event crowned the greatest skier in the world. The first Olympics, the 1924 Winter Games in Chamonix, France, consisted of only 16 events in nine sports. There are now over 100 events in 15 sports. With the advent of alpine skiing and freestyle, not to mention snowboarding, Nordic combined no longer defines a king or queen of the mountain.
Organizers are trying to limit the size of the Games while incorporating new sports that appeal to a younger generation. The star of the Beijing Games last winter was Eileen Gu, the freestyle skier who won gold medals in big air and halfpipe and a silver medal in slopestyle, events that did not exist there. ten years ago. Big air for skiing was added this year.
In addition, the organizers wondered if the Nordic combined would one day be able to produce geographic diversity. The countries that excel include the usual list of Olympic stalwarts, and there is little potential for top contenders from South America, Africa or Asian countries outside of Japan.
Malacinski said the IOC got itself on the wrong side of history.
“I hope they realize that they have not only potentially killed the future of Nordic combined – an original Olympic sport, but also the dream of so many young girls to become Olympians,” she said. . “The fight has only just begun.”