The International Olympic Committee decided on Friday not to add women’s Nordic combined to the 2026 Winter Games in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, a devastating setback for dozens of women who have dedicated their lives to the event in recent years and possibly fatal blow to one of the original Winter Olympic competitions.
Men will continue to compete in Nordic Combined, which requires excellence in both ski jumping and cross-country skiing. But their event is now in jeopardy for the 2030 Games because the Olympic Committee has prioritized sports capable of achieving gender equality.
Karl Stoss of Austria, board member of the Olympic Committee, said the survival of Nordic Combined will depend on the sport showing “a clear positive development, particularly in terms of participation and audience”.
Stoss noted that only 10 countries were sending athletes to the 2021 Women’s Nordic Combined World Championships competition.
“This does not meet the universality,” said Stoss. “It’s very interesting for us in European countries, but outside of Europe you don’t really find athletes doing this sport.”
Kit McConnell, the IOC’s sporting director, said the organization decided to continue the men’s competition in 2026 because it would not be fair to the athletes to stop their sport just three and a half years before the Games.
The Presidents of the international governing body of skiing, FIS, have spent almost a decade building a women’s Nordic Combined World Cup and World Championship.
You had proposed a women’s competition at the Olympic Games with 30 top athletes. However, because the IOC had capped the number of athletes at the Games at 2,900 and wanted to include new sports, Nordic Combined proposed reducing the number of men in Nordic Combined by 15, bringing the total number of athletes for that sport by just would rise fifteen.
Annika Malacinski, 21, the top American in Nordic Combined, has put full-time college on hold for three years to pursue the highest level in her sport.
“How could they? How dare they?” Malacinski said the Olympic Committee. “The time and effort I put into building this sport with so many great girls around the world and for the IOC to tell us we’re not enough?”
Lasse Ottesen of Norway, Nordic Combined Race Director, called the decision “a sad day” for the sport.
“The development of the Nordic Combined women in recent years has been more than impressive, so that the next logical step would have been their participation,” said Ottesen. “The board’s lack of trust in the further development of our discipline and the visible misjudgment of the performance of our women is frightening.”
The IOC tried to soften the blow for women by noting that it had adjusted other events so that 47 per cent of athletes in 2026 will be women. In women’s ski jumping, in addition to the smaller normal hill, there is also a competition on the large hill, more bobsledders and a women’s doubles event in luge. In addition, all Nordic Combined disciplines will continue to exist as individual events.
Opponents of including male or female Nordic combined have questioned its relevance.
A century ago, when cross-country skiing and ski jumping were essentially the only skiing sports in existence, a combined event crowned the world’s best skier. The first Olympics, the 1924 Winter Games in Chamonix, France, featured just 16 events across nine sports. There are now more than 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 try to limit the size of the games while also incorporating new sports that appeal to a younger generation. The star of recent Beijing Winter Games was Eileen Gu, the freestyle skier who won gold medals in big air and halfpipe and silver in slopestyle, events that didn’t exist a decade ago. It was only this year that Big Air joined skiing.
In addition, the organizers have questioned whether nordic combined will ever be able to produce geographical diversity. Standout countries include the usual list of Olympic stars, and there’s little potential for top contenders from South America, Africa, or Asian countries other than Japan.
Malacinski said the IOC got on the wrong side of history.
“I hope they realize that they may not only have ruined 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.”