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updated: 2/14/2014 6:46 PM

Women ski jumpers find fight well worth it

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  • United States' Lindsey Van points to spectators after her first attempt during the women's normal hill ski jumping final at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.

    United States' Lindsey Van points to spectators after her first attempt during the women's normal hill ski jumping final at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.


Talk about driven.

There's a Van out there that finally reached Sochi after quite a journey.

Veteran American ski jumper Lindsey Van has been in Russia this week competing in the Olympics for the first time ever. Ditto for all of her teammates and competitors.

Women's ski jumping is in its inaugural run on the Olympic program. Its debut comes after a long, draining fight by female ski jumpers worldwide that included a lawsuit and plenty of public discourse.

Despite requests from female ski jumpers since 1998 for inclusion in the Olympics, the International Olympic Committee continuously refused to add ski jumping for females to the Olympic program, citing that the sport lacked certain qualifications, such as a history of world championships and a proven pool of enough qualified athletes.

One member of the IOC, Gian Franco Kasper, even said that women should not be included in ski jumping because it "seems not to be appropriate for ladies from a medical point of view."

Van wasn't sure why female ski jumpers were meeting such resistance. Women, and plenty of them, had been competing for years in international ski jumping events, just not at the Olympics.

In fact in 2009, prior to the Vancouver Winter Olympics, Van held the record -- for both men and women -- for the longest leap off the ski jump in Whistler, British Columbia, that was built for the Vancouver Games.

It was in 2009, after once again learning that they had been excluded from the Olympics, that Van and other female ski jumpers sued the Vancouver Organizing Committee.

"It actually feels for the first time in my life that I'm living now and not talking about what I'm going to do," the 29-year-old Van, who placed 15th overall in Sochi, told "I'm here, and that itself is a relief and makes me extremely happy. Somebody just won the Olympics."

That somebody was Carina Vogt of Germany, who won the gold medal amid plenty of fanfare.

She was cheered by jumpers from countries all around the globe, happy to share not only in her victory, but in theirs, too.

Big Ten's dean:

College basketball coaches with any kind of longevity are becoming harder and harder to find.

The shelf life in that business, even on the women's side, is getting shorter and shorter.

On Monday, Iowa coach Lisa Bluder further entrenched herself as one of the exceptions to the rule. With a win over Northwestern, the Big Ten's dean of coaches got her 270th victory at Iowa, making her the winningest basketball coach in school history.

Bluder, who is in her 14th season in charge of the Hawkeyes, passed the legendary C. Vivian Stringer, who left Iowa in the late 1990s to become head coach at Rutgers. And how's this for full circle? Next season will bring Stringer back to the conference for its Big Ten debut.

After the win over Northwestern, Bluder was honored at half-court with various salutes, including a videotaped message from Stringer.

"Vivian is such a great coach, she's a Hall of Famer," Bluder said. "She's a person that got this program started in the right direction and I'm glad that we have a friendship. I'm glad that we share some similar experiences. We both sat in that seat (at the end of the bench) for a lot of years and we both love this place immensely."

Helping Bluder get win No. 270 was junior guard Melissa Dixon, who starred at Johnsburg High School. Dixon made 6 of 9 three-pointers against Northwestern and finished with 24 points.

Follow Patricia on Twitter: @babcockmcgraw

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