More controversy hit the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing on Monday when five female ski jumpers were abruptly disqualified from the mixed team event for suit violations, despite their reportedly having worn the same outfits for previous events only days earlier.
In a shock ruling, the International Ski Federation (FIS) determined that the suits donned by five female athletes from Austria, Japan, Norway, and Germany were too loose-fitting and so offered an aerodynamic advantage, Yahoo News first reported.
In ski jumping, larger suits could potentially increase the time jumpers can stay in the air, thus giving them a leg up on the competition. This is why, for example, ski jumpers can't use a wingsuit to compete.
But in this case, the disqualified athletes claimed they were in no way attempting to bend the rules to gain an advantage. The same suits had reportedly been cleared for events the day before.
The ruling drastically altered the medal podium — the disqualified skiers hailed from the four favorited nations, along with Slovenia — and sparked harsh reactions from the competitors and others in the sport.
"The FIS destroyed everything with this operation. I think they have destroyed women’s ski jumping," said one of the disqualified competitors, German jumper Katharina Althaus, according to German sports agency SID. "I have been checked so many times in 11 years of ski jumping, and I have never been disqualified once," she added. "I know my suit was compliant."
Althaus, already a silver medalist in these Olympics, later wrote on Instagram "I have no words for the decisions that were made today."
Her coach, Stefan Horngacher, added: "It is just strange that they have been using the same suits yesterday and there was no problem. It is annoying that this happens at the Winter Olympic Games. This should all be cleared before."
German head of Nordic events Horst Huttel stated, "This is a parody, but I am not laughing ... It is outrageous that this happens with the four biggest ski-jump nations," according to Reuters.
Norway’s Silje Opseth, who was also disqualified, suggested, "I think they checked it in a new way today compared to what they had done previously. I think it’s very strange that they would suddenly change how they do it in the middle of a tournament ... I don’t know what to say. I’m really just shaken."
Norwegian ski jumping chief of sports Clas Brede Braathen reportedly said, "I'm lost for words, really. This is very painful for the athletes. I'm in pain on behalf of our sport. We were going to introduce a new event. The girls were to get a new event in the Olympics, and that's how it ends. And why are only girls being disqualified?"
"The sport of ski jumping has experienced one of its darker days today," he added.
In addition to Althaus and Opseth, Norway’s Anna Odine Stroem, Japan's Sara Takanashi, and Austria's Daniela Iraschko-Stolz were also dismissed.
With the field cleared of some of the top competitors, Slovenia coasted to a gold medal in the event, in which teams of four — two men and two women — compete for the top score. Russia took silver and Canada took bronze, its first-ever Olympic medal in ski jumping.