VANCOUVER - The dream of competing at the Vancouver Olympics is finally over for a group of female ski jumpers.
The Supreme Court of Canada announced Tuesday that it will not hear an appeal by the athletes. The high court, as usual, gave no reasons for its decision.
"My initial reaction was very surprised and super disappointed," said Zoya Lynch, a Whistler, B.C., resident who gave up on her ski jumping dream last year out of frustration but remained part of the legal challenge.
"I thought that they would give us a hearing and listen to our case."
The women contended the Charter of Rights governs the Olympic Games and that Vancouver organizers broke the law by hosting only men's ski jumping.
They were seeking leave to appeal two lower-court rulings that said the charter cannot dictate which sports are included in the Winter Games. The lower courts ruled that the charter does not apply to the International Olympic Committee, which made the jumping decision.
With the Games less than two months away, the women hoped the Supreme Court would expedite the case.
Deedee Corradini, president of Women's Ski Jumping USA and a vocal supporter of the legal challenge put forward by the jumpers, called the high court's ruling "disappointing."
"The athletes have been disappointed so many times and this will be another disappointment on the road," she said.
"But these women are so incredible, they don't give up, they won't give up, and we're going to keep fighting until these women are in the Olympics."
Corradini, the former mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah, said the attention will now shift to getting women's ski jumping in the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
"That is what we will start working on right away. And that's where our focus has to be going forward," she said.
Those sentiments were echoed by Jan Willis, whose daughter Katie was among those hoping to compete in Vancouver.
Katie could not immediately be reached for comment, but her mother said they'll continue to fight to have women's ski jumping recognized as an Olympic sport.
"The women can't give up. They've just been working so hard at this. Katie's been training with the boys that are going to be going to the Olympics since she was eight years old," Jan said.
"She doesn't want to see this happening to the next generation of young girls coming up."
Ross Clark, the lawyer who represented the women, said the case was a textbook example of gender discrimination.
"We're obviously really disappointed, not necessarily surprised but certainly disappointed," he said in an interview.
"I think it's the end of the line."
Vancouver's Olympic organizing committee, or VANOC, said in a statement it hopes the female ski jumpers have a place in future Games.
"We appreciate the Supreme Court of Canada's time and careful consideration of these complex issues," the statement, attributed to VANOC chief executive officer John Furlong, said.
"We remain supportive of these young women and of having women's ski jumping added to the roster of future Olympic Winter Games."
The women first launched a lawsuit against local organizers in May 2008, 18 months after the International Olympic Committee decided to exclude the sport.
They dropped a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission when the federal government agreed to lobby the IOC. When that failed, they pursued a court case based on the charter.
The women wanted the courts to force Games organizers to either add a women's event or cancel the men's. Organizers said they could do neither.
The IOC voted not to include women's ski jumping at the 2010 Games because, according to rules in place at the time, the sport was not developed enough.
There are also Olympic rules dictating how far in advance of an Olympics a sport can be added to the program.
The women countered they have since held enough international events to qualify for consideration as an Olympic sport. They said it wouldn't be difficult for the organizers to accommodate one additional event.
Lynch said she's far from optimistic the IOC will ever include women's ski jumping in the Winter Games.
"If they think that the sport doesn't meet the technical criteria now, when are they ever going to think that? Women's ski jumping is as good as it's ever been," she said.