Anette Sagen retires from ski jumping

After a decade of success and a lasting influence on the sport, Sagen packs away her skis

Photos: Thomas Andersen / Wikimedia Sagen flies at the opening jump of the new Holmenkollen ski jump in 2010.

Photo: Thomas Andersen / Wikimedia
Sagen flies at the opening jump of the new Holmenkollen ski jump in 2010.

Molly Jones
Norwegian American Weekly

Anette Sagen’s ski jumping career has undoubtedly been memorable; her impressive record includes five Continental Cup victories and four Hoppuka wins, not to mention 12 national championships. But the 30-year-old is known for more than her victories—she has become a symbol for women’s equality in the sport of ski jumping.

Sagen first earned her representation as the figurehead in the fight for equality in 2004. Originally the top women ski jumpers were invited to test jump at the men’s Continental Cup competition in Vikersund, but the FIS ski jumping chairman, Torbjørn Yggeseth, later prohibited them because he felt it would be too dangerous. But Sagen stood up for her right and in the end she and three other women were allowed to jump. With 174.5 meter jumps at Vikersund, both Sagen and Helena Olsson Smeby set a Norwegian record for the longest jump by a woman.

“It was hard at times. There’s nothing enjoyable about standing there and being 18-19 years old and getting things thrown in your face like, ‘You can’t jump here, you’re crazy, you are a girl.’ It was hard to swallow, and it’s probably why I chose to take it as hard as I did. I’m not particularly good at tackling injustice,” admits Sagen to NRK.

Photo: Manuguf / Wikimedia The 30-year-old ski jump pioneer says the joy of competing is gone.

Photo: Manuguf / Wikimedia
The 30-year-old ski jump pioneer says the joy of competing is gone.

When women’s ski jumping was not included in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics program, Sagan once again fought for women’s equality. She was one of the 15 women jumpers who went to the Olympic Committee demanding that the men’s event be cancelled unless women could participate, suing the Vancouver Organizing Committee for discrimination. The claim was denied by the Canadian court system, but women’s ski jumping was successfully incorporated into the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

Many believe that Sagan has had the biggest influence on women’s representation in ski jumping, in both World Cup events and the Olympic Winter Games. In 2010, Sagan was chosen to participate in the opening jump at the new Holmenkollen on March 3 and also awarded the YS’ likestillingspris, an equality prize awarded by the Confederation of Vocational Unions.

“Anette has meant a lot for the sport,” comments NRK’s jumping expert Johan Remen Evensen. “I think many girls have begun to jump because of her, at least in Norway.”

But Sagan has a bit of a different perspective and states: “What I did was almost a bit selfish, because the only thing I wanted was to jump. Nothing would be better than if I could start over again and be fifteen years old today. I would rather start over without having to fight the battle.”

Nevertheless, Sagan has decided to pack up her skis and retire from the sport. The decision came after she was not chosen to represent Norway in Falun at the Nordic World Ski Championships, she says.

“I love the sport, but the joy of competing is gone. I can’t wait to start a new phase of my life now; actually it was a relief when I finally made this decision,” she says to NRK. “I would like to be remembered as someone who did a lot for the sport.”

Sagan jumped the final jump of her career at Holmenkollen on March 6. She is now ready to move onto the next stage of her life, but there is no doubt that her contribution to women’s ski jumping will live on.

This article originally appeared in the March 20, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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