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Why 5 female Olympic ski jumpers were disqualified for their uniforms

Anger and tears ensued after five female competitors on teams favored to win medals were disqualified in the inaugural Olympic mixed team ski jumping event.

The inaugural mixed team ski jumping event failed to stick the landing in its Olympic debut.

Five female ski jumpers were disqualified in Beijing after officials said the suits they were wearing were "too big and offered an aerodynamic advantage," prompting tears from the competitors and outrage among the affected teams from Germany, Norway, Austria and Japan.

Bigger suits offer more wind resistance, potentially creating an advantage by allowing ski jumpers to stay in the air longer, so suits are inspected by officials at each event.

Katharina Althaus
Germany's Katharina Althaus was one of five female competitors disqualified in the inaugural mixed team ski jumping Olympic event in Beijing that has created a controversy within the sport.Al Bello / Getty Images

Germany's Katharina Althaus, one of the five women who were disqualified, lashed back at the decision by the International Ski Federation. Her disqualification came just days after she earned a silver medal in an individual ski jumping event.

“We were looking forward to the second competition at the Olympics. FIS destroyed that with this action — they destroyed women’s ski jumping,” she told reporters, according to Reuters. “Our names are now (out) there and we just pulled the crap card. That is how you destroy nations, development and the entire sport.”

In addition to Althaus, Norway’s Silje Opseth and Aanna Odine Stroem, Japan’s Sara Takanashi and Austria’s Daniela Iraschko-Stolz were also disqualified.

“I have been checked so many times in 11 years of ski jumping, and I have never been disqualified once, I know my suit was compliant,” a distraught Althaus told Agence France-Presse.

Opseth noted that she wore the same suit that she wore in the mixed competition two days earlier in the women’s normal hill event, but was not disqualified in the individual event.

She broke down in tears after learning of the disqualification, according to Reuters.

“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,” she said. “I don’t know what to say. I’m really just shaken. I’m sorry that I was disqualified today.”

All of the competitors disqualified were female in a mixed event that features two men and two women competing for each country. The event was seen as an inclusive addition in an Olympic sport that men have competed in since 1924, but women did not participate in until 2014.

Several of the countries with disqualifications were medal favorites, but none of them ended up earning a medal. Slovenia, the only top-five seed that didn't have any disqualifications, took home the gold.

“This is a parody, but I am not laughing ... It is outrageous that this happens with the four biggest ski-jump nations,” Horst Huttel, Germany’s head of Nordic events, told Reuters.

The Russian Olympic Committee won silver, and the Canadian team team ended up with a bronze for its first Olympic ski jumping medal in history.

“I don’t think this is a bittersweet medal at all. I think it’s as sweet as a medal can come,” Canadian team member Abigail Strate told reporters, according to Toronto's National Post.

“Equipment is very important in sport and disqualifications happen. It’s a very common thing to happen in ski jumping and the fact that it happened at the Olympics just goes to show that they were taking the rules pretty strictly and seriously because it is the absolute highest level of sport,” Strate added.

An event that was supposed to be a feel-good addition to the Olympics instead has left a lot of teams with a bad taste in their mouth.

“The sport of ski jumping has experienced one of its darker days," Norwegian ski jumping chief of sports Clas Brede Braathen told Reuters.