Five women ski jumpers disqualified from contention at the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing this week for baggy clothing are taking aim at the International Ski Federation (FIS). 

According to media reports, athletes representing Germany, Austria, Japan, and Norway were not allowed to compete in the ski jumping mixed team competition on Monday after officials determined that their snowsuits were too loose. The Federation claims that loose clothes give skiers an unfair advantage while airborne. 

Those nations’ ski teams were expected to be in contention for medals before they were disqualified from the event. Ultimately, the Slovenian delegation took home the gold, with the Russians and Canadians winning silver and bronze medals, respectively. 

FIS officials have said that the athletes’ baggy outfits violated the governing body’s established regulations. 

Ski Jumpers Disqualified for Baggy Clothing Fire Back

After the skiers were dismissed from the games on Monday, many criticized the FIS for what they said were unclear and unevenly applied regulations. 

Germany’s Katharina Althaus, who reportedly burst into tears after she and her team were disqualified following the first round, accused the Swiss governing body of “destroying” and “damaging” women’s ski jumping as a sport. 

“We were so happy to have a second event [for women] here at the Olympics,” Althaus reportedly said. “The FIS destroyed everything with this operation. I think they have destroyed women’s ski jumping. I don’t know what they’re trying to do.”

Althaus was among 5 ski jumpers disqualified in Beijing over supposed baggy clothing that officials said gave them an unfair advantage in the air.
Katharina Althaus was among 5 ski jumpers disqualified in Beijing over supposed baggy clothing that officials said gave them an unfair advantage in the air. Photo credit: Instagram

“I have been checked so many times in 11 years of ski jumping, and I have never been disqualified once, I know my suit was compliant,” she later wrote in an emotional post on Instagram.

“160 World Cup starts, five World Championships, three Olympic Games and I got DSQ for the first time. My heart is broken,” she added. 

Anna Odine Strøm, one of two Norwegian skiers to be cut from contention, said she believed officials measured equipment using a different method than usual, though she said her suit might be ill-fitting due to Covid-safety measures that have affected her diet in Beijing. 

“It was a bit strange and didn’t conform to how it’s been done in the past,” Strøm told The Guardian. “It is a bit the result of me being in quarantine and not eating properly the whole week.”

Men’s Teams Offer Solidarity

Others in the world of competitive skiing defended the athletes after news of their disqualification broke late on Monday. 

“We stick together no matter what,” wrote Karl Geiger, a member of the German men’s ski team, on social media.  

“Nevertheless, I have to ask myself whether the regulations for the women were changed overnight, with so many disqualifications?!? It was neither the right time nor the right place to disqualify so many athletes from different nations,” he added. 

German ski jumpers disqualified in Beijing over their supposedly baggy clothing criticized the International Ski Federation for unclear regulations.
German ski jumpers disqualified in Beijing over their supposedly baggy clothing criticized the International Ski Federation for unclear regulations. Photo credit: Instagram

Stefan Horngacher, head coach of the German men’s team, said “the disappointment is […] huge,” but added that “the rules have to be accepted,” according to foreign reports. 

“It is just strange that they have been using the same suits yesterday and there was no problem,” he said. “It is annoying that this happens at the Winter Olympic Games. This should all be cleared before.” 

FIS Keeps Silent

The International Ski Federation does not appear to have addressed the controversy on any of its official social media feeds as of Tuesday. 

The exact regulations for ski jumpers’ equipment are not fully clear, and officials have not given a detailed explanation of the disqualified athletes’ baggy clothing or how it violated FIS bylaws. 

Previously, the FIS had come under fire for its rules governing snowsuits worn by female athletes. Until 2020, women competing under FIS rules were required to have extra hip panels that some skiers felt was unnecessary and sexist. 

The women ski jumpers disqualified from the Beijing games over baggy clothing have only been allowed to compete since 2014.
Five women ski jumpers disqualified from the Beijing games over baggy clothing took aim the FIS. Women’s ski jumping has only been played at the Winter Olympics since 2014. Photo credit: Shutterstock

“They were trying to come up with ways that accentuated our hips and our curves a little bit more,” U.S. Olympian Sarah Hendrickson told NPR just this week. 

Women’s ski jumping is a relatively new addition to the Winter Olympics, having debuted at the 2014 games in Sochi, Russia. The mixed team event, from which the five athletes were disqualified, was added just this year, according to reports.