KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — It took years for women to earn the right to ski jump in the Winter Games and just a day to crown their first Olympic champion.
At the debut of the women’s normal hill ski jump, Carina Vogt of Germany won the first gold medal, outscoring Daniela Iraschko-Stolz of Austria, who won the silver medal, and Coline Mattel of France, who finished third.
The victory came after a battle that included a legal challenge that all but shamed the International Olympic Committee into allowing women into an event that has been part of the Winter Games since 1924.
Even so, women are jumping in just one event, the normal hill, while the men jump in three events (the normal hill, the large hill and a team event). Only 30 women competed in the Winter Games, less than half as many as the men.
Still, the women who competed today were happy finally to be competing on the biggest sports stage.
The first jump by a woman at an Olympics was by Sarah Hendrickson, 19, the U.S. teenager who was the world champion last year but badly injured her knee in August and only started jumping again in January. In Sochi, Hendrickson said that her knee was still shaky.
“I think having this injury has relieved some of the pressure for me, because now I’m the underdog,” she said this week. “I don’t want to use that as an excuse, but my goal was to make it to Sochi and I’ve accomplished that.”
She said she planned to take the rest of the season off.
She pumped her fists after her historic first jump of 94 meters for 112.4 points. But that turned out to be good for only 19th place after the first round.
Leading the way was Vogt, who jumped 103 meters for 126.8 points. With Hendrickson sidelined this season, Sara Takanashi of Japan, 17, has won nearly all of the World Cup events this season, breaking Hendrickson’s record for wins, and was the presumed favorite to win the gold medal. But she was third after the first jump.
Takanashi’s second jump was no better, and she surprisingly fell out of medal contention. Vogt’s second jump was short, but it was enough to hang on to the gold.
“I can’t find the right words,” Vogt said. “I’m just speechless, because training yesterday was not so good.”
The top U.S. finisher was Jessica Jerome in 10th place. Hendrickson was 24th.
The event was held late in the evening, with the second jump not starting until 10:20 p.m.
After the event, the favored Takanashi said: “I’m incredibly disappointed.” Earlier in the week, her hopes had been high.
“I really like jumping by night,” she said, “because there are lots of lights, everything is sparkling.”