The International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Friday announced the program for the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Olympics.
One of the biggest takeaways? For a 25th consecutive Winter Games, men will compete in Nordic combined and women won’t.
Nordic combined — which includes ski jumping and cross-country skiing — has been contested at every Olympics since the inaugural Winter Games in 1924.
After women’s ski jumping was added to the Olympic program in 2014 following a lengthy fight, it initially seemed like women’s Nordic combined would be next.
But while the sport has seen significant growth in recent years, it hasn’t been enough to merit inclusion, according to the IOC. The organization cited the fact that too few countries are competing — and winning medals — as well as the fact that women’s Nordic combined only had its first world championship competition in 2021.
“Right now, I’m disappointed by the IOC’s decision, specifically when they are talking about gender equality at the Olympics,” U.S. women’s Nordic combined head coach Tomas Matura said in a statement.
“For the women that put everything into this sport and make the sacrifices that we do, we are very disappointed in the IOC’s decision to not add Women’s Nordic Combined to Milano Cortina 2026,” said U.S. athlete Annika Malacinski.
“While in the same breath stating that this will be the most gender-balanced Olympic Winter Games to date while not adding Women’s Nordic Combined, is truly disappointing. We are hearing your message loud and clear, and the fight has just begun.”
The IOC also acknowledged that — while men’s Nordic combined will be included 2026 — the sport as a whole could be dropped from the Winter Olympics in 2030.
“The inclusion of Nordic combined in the Olympic Winter Games 2030 depends on a significant positive development, particularly with regard to participation and audience,” said IOC Sports Director Kit McConnell. “Participation in terms of the number of people and the diversity of countries participating in Nordic combined, and then audience being the number of people watching it. And I think it’s fair to say that struggled to grow on both counts.”
The IOC did make several notable changes that will improve gender balance at the 2026 Winter Olympics. A new women’s doubles luge event will debut in 2026 after the first ever women’s doubles’ luge world championship was held earlier this year. Women’s ski jumping will also feature a new large hill event, something female ski jumpers had been advocating in support of for years.
“We have been fighting for equal events in the Olympics for a long time and it is relieving to see that people are listening to us,” said 2022 Olympian Anna Hoffmann. “It is a great beginning step to change some of the gender inequalities in our sport. There is a lot more work to be done for equality, but this is a huge advance for us on the largest stage of competition.”
Other sports, however, remain unbalanced for the 2026 Games.
Bobsled will continue to offer more men’s quota spots (139) than women’s (81). The 2022 Winter Olympics marked the first time that female bobsledders had two medal opportunities, but because women compete in monobob — and not a four-woman event — fewer female athletes are able to participate at the Games. U.S. pilots Kaillie Humphries and Elana Meyers Taylor, who claimed gold and silver, respectively, in the Olympic debut of monobob, have long advocated for the inclusion of a four-woman event.
The IOC also announced the addition of a new sport: ski mountaineering, which will feature a men’s, women’s and mixed gender event. Plus, in freestyle skiing, dual moguls events for both men and women will be included.
Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC
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Women’s Nordic combined shut out of 2026 Winter Olympics originally appeared on NBCSports.com