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Nordic combined world champion draws on beard to protest no Olympic women’s event

Gyda Westvold Hansen

Norway’s Gyda Westvold Hansen (R) has a beard painted on her face as she demonstrates with other athletes at the season opening at Beitostølen, Norway, on November 19, 2022, during the cross-country Women’s 10 km Individual Start Classic event. - The athletes protested against the IOC who has decided that women’s combined will not have an Olympic branch in the 2026 Winter Olympics in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy. - Norway OUT (Photo by Heiko Junge / NTB / AFP) / Norway OUT (Photo by HEIKO JUNGE/NTB/AFP via Getty Images)

NTB/AFP via Getty Images

Norwegian Gyda Westvold Hansen, the first world champion in women’s Nordic combined, competed in a domestic event with a drawn-on beard on Saturday to protest the lack of an Olympic women’s Nordic combined event.

Westvold Hansen and other women also raised their ski poles at the start line to form Xs. Top female Nordic combined skiers have used the hashtag #noeXception on social media in speaking out against a June decision not to add women’s Nordic combined to the Winter Olympics for 2026.

“We think it’s absurd that you have to look like this or have a beard to be allowed to compete in the Olympics. We hope to do something about it,” Westvold Hansen told Norwegian broadcaster NRK, according to a Reuters translation. “This is important for recruitment and girls to want to continue with the sport, which is so much fun. It is extremely important for the sport.”

Nordic combined is the lone Olympic sport without female representation.

The IOC chose not to add a women’s event for 2026, citing having “only one world championship to date” that had 10 nations represented and all three medals won by one nation (Norway). Karl Stoss, chair of the IOC Olympic program commission, said those numbers do not meet universality criteria.

The first women’s Nordic combined World Cup event was in December 2020. The number of scheduled World Cups this season increases from 10 to 11. A mixed-gender team event will be held at the world championships for the first time, in addition to the one individual women’s event that debuted at worlds in 2021.

Nordic combined officials believed that their sport was in danger of being dropped from the Olympic program altogether if the IOC opted against adding a women’s event.

The decisive argument for keeping men’s Nordic combined on the 2026 program without a women’s event was the proximity — male athletes are already preparing for the Games.

The IOC said men’s Nordic combined “had by far the lowest audience numbers” of sports over the last three Olympics. It noted that the 27 medals won in the sport among 2014, 2018 and 2022 were spread across “only” four nations.

Its inclusion in the 2030 Winter Olympics depends on significant developments in global participation and audience.

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