‘How dare they’: IOC opts not to include women’s Nordic combined in the 2026 Olympics

The original Winter Olympic sport is on the chopping block for 2030

Steamboat Springs Nordic combined skier Annika Malacinski takes flight on the HS75 at Howelsen Hill Friday during the special jumping team event at the USA Nordic Ski Championships at Howelsen Hill in March 2021.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Women’s Nordic combined will not be in the Olympics in 2026, preventing the Winter Games from reaching gender equality.

The International Olympic Committee elected to not add the sport to the schedule in Milano-Cortina in Italy during its executive board meeting on Friday, June 24.

“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 Karl Stoss, chair of the Olympic Programme Commission, during a press conference.

Annika Malacinski, the top America women’s Nordic combined athlete who hails from Steamboat Springs, was traveling when she heard the announcement. She said she started bawling on the plane.

“I got the worst, most unbearable news anyone could get,” she wrote. “For someone that puts their everything into a sport that they love, puts school aside, my social life aside, making sacrifices most wouldn’t understand, only to hear the bullshit excuse that comes from the IOC about how we, as women in Nordic combined, don’t have enough to show?”

Tess Arnone, another Steamboat Springs-raised women’s national team member, was coaching Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club U10 Nordic combined and ski jumping athletes when she heard the news.

“I had to step back and take a breath and go back to encouraging these eight-year-old girls to do this sport even though the IOC was breaking my heart,” she said.

Arnone didn’t share with the young athletes that they still don’t have an Olympic dream to shoot for. Still, she worries about the future of the sport now that the goal of going to the Olympics has been pushed back.

“How could they. How dare they,” Malacinski said. “The time and effort I have put into building this sport with so many amazing girls around the world and for the IOC to tell us that we are not enough? Disgusting. And for the Olympics to brag about how equality has never been at its highest days before this decision? Shameful. I hope they realize that not only have they potentially killed the future of Nordic combined — an original Olympic sport — but also so many young girls’ dreams of becoming Olympians.”

Malacinski is one of three women on the USA Nordic women’s Nordic combined National Team who live in Steamboat Springs.

The SSWSC helped all three of those athletes and issued a statement later on Friday from the executive director, associate executive director, athletic director and the ski jumping and Nordic combined coaches.

“At the SSWSC, we are proud of the increasing percentage of girls and young women participating in jumping and Nordic combined over the past several years, now nearly 40%,” read the release. “With our incredible history in these sports, we look forward to playing our part in continuing to grow nordic combined, both in participants and fans, through great programming and events here in Steamboat. We believe that Nordic combined is a foundational discipline for our club.”

Not only are women not participating in Nordic combined in 2026, but the men’s sport is on the chopping block for 2030 as well. 

Following a “thorough discussion,” the board opted to keep men in 2026 since the Olympics are just three-and-a-half years away and the athletes have been preparing for many years. However, Stoss said that didn’t apply to the women, as they’ve only had two World Cup seasons and one appearance in the World Ski Championships, and only have participation from athletes from 10 countries.

Stoss said even the men’s sport is not impressing the board with widespread participation. 

“This is not fulfilling the criteria for universality,” Stoss said. 

He continued to say even the men need to improve universality as the sport is not the most popular outside of Europe. 

“It’s very interesting for us, the European countries,” Stoss said. “But outside of Europe, you couldn’t find really athletes doing this sport.”

Steamboat Springs Nordic combined athlete and two-time Olympian Jasper Good didn’t even consider the men’s side of the sport being cut until the last couple weeks when rumors started circulating.

“It’s so disappointing,” he said. “Especially because going into this spring I didn’t realize the entire sport was on the chopping block. I don’t think a lot of people did.”

Good said there is no one in the Nordic combined community that doesn’t want to see the women’s sport added to the Olympics. He said it’s one thing to have the chance to qualify but not make the Olympics, but it’s another to not even have the opportunity to do so.

Stoss said the topic will be discussed with the International Ski Federation in the coming months to deliberate how to increase the athletes in the sport and grow the audience watching the sport.

Without an Olympic Games to strive for though, it’s hard to imagine seeing women’s Nordic combined continue to grow over the next few years.

“The IOC just shot our sport in the foot,” Good said.

Minutes before the announcement that women would not compete in Nordic combined in 2026, Stoss listed the Milan-Cortina 2026 program principles, which included “achieving gender equal participation across the Olympic Games at event and discipline levels where possible.”

That equality will only be achieved when the board either adds women’s Nordic combined or axes the sport from the schedule altogether.

“To the IOC directly,” Malacinski wrote. “You may think this is some joke, but this is our lives. We’re hearing your message loud and clear, and know you’re on the wrong side of history today. The fight has just begun.”

The executive board opted to add ski mountaineering to the 2026 schedule, the first new sport in the Winter Olympics since 1998. The board also added new disciplines in bobsleigh, luge, as well as dual moguls for men and women, and the large hill event for women ski jumpers, helping the 2026 Games achieve 47% female participation, an increase over 45.4% in Beijing.

The addition of the large hill event is a huge win for women’s ski jumpers, who have been fighting for equality since the early 2000’s, making its Olympic debut in 2014, leaving Nordic combined as the only sport in the Winter Games without women.

While this is a large success for our sport, it is challenging and disappointing that our sister sport of Women’s Nordic Combined has not been added to the Olympics,” said Olympic ski jumper Anna Hoffmann in a news release from USA Nordic. “It’s great to celebrate our win today, but it’s important to keep in mind that this fight for equality is not done.”

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