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The last hurdle for Winter Olympics gender equity

Eric Adelson
Yahoo Sports
Sarah Hendrickson jumps during the Ladies' Normal Hill Individual first round at the RusSki Gorki Ski Jumping Center. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Sarah Hendrickson jumps during the Ladies' Normal Hill Individual first round at the RusSki Gorki Ski Jumping Center. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

SOCHI, Russia – Canadian Taylor Henrich basked in the aftermath of the history-making Olympic ski jump competition on Tuesday and proclaimed, "We're all equal now."

Yes and no. Women are certainly equal in Olympic ski jumping for the first time ever, but there's still one winter sport where women do not compete.

That sport is Nordic Combined.

The "combined" name comes from the blend of cross-country skiing and ski jump – the ultimate grind and the ultimate thrill. A few of the women ski jumpers asked about the sport on Tuesday shied away from the idea of doing both. But Henrich, a self-described "crazy Canuck," did not.

[Related: Canadian coach helps Russian cross country skier]

"I love cross-country skiing," the Calgary native said. "It'd be so cool to do both."

Another vote in favor is one of the more powerful voices in the sport: Norwegian coach Kristian Hammer. Norway has owned Nordic Combined like the Americans own basketball, winning 26 total medals coming into these Games. That's as much as the total of the next two nations, Finland and Austria.

"They are more than welcome," Hammer said by phone Thursday when asked his thoughts about including women.

Women already compete in cross-country skiing, so the holdup has been the stubbornness (and misogyny) of the International Olympic Committee on including ski jump in the Winter Games. Now that that barrier has been removed, it's a matter of finding athletes who are willing to do both sports simultaneously and then petitioning the IOC if enough women show interest.

[Related: What's next for women's ski jumping?]

"The biggest reason is that Nordic doesn't have too many athletes," Hammer said. "You don't find too many who can handle it."

That's not a slight against women; it's the truth about Nordic Combined. It's difficult for everyone. There were only 54 Olympic athletes in the sport in 2010. "We just need some time," he said.

Hammer said he'd be willing to train any young athlete, male or female. "That's no problem," he said.

It's no problem because he's open-minded. But it's also no problem because including women in Nordic Combined might very well boost Norway's already-booming medal count. There were only two countries with two top-10 finishers in Tuesday's women's ski jump: Japan and, of course, Norway.

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