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Page 3 Profile: Daniela Iraschko-Stolz, ski jumper

Ski jumping? Sounds like a recipe for disaster…

Not so for Daniela Iraschko-Stolz. The 30-year-old Austrian won a silver medal yesterday at the Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia for her performance in the women’s ski jumping final.

She must have been pretty impressive…

Iraschko-Stolz has been competing since 2000 and in 2003 was the first woman to fly over 200 metres, during practice for a World Cup event in Bad Mitterndorf. The openly gay competitor was pipped to the gold medal yesterday by Germany’s Carina Vogt, with Coline Mattel of France taking bronze. Her rival Sara Takanashi of Japan fell a little short of the competition coming in fourth.

Hold on a minute, did you say openly gay? At Sochi?

Yes. But although Russia has faced international condemnation for its anti-gay laws, the athlete, who married her partner Isabel Stolz last year, has said she would rather focus on her sport than her sexuality: “I think everything is being blown up bigger than it is,” she said. “I had a very good welcome like every other athlete. There were absolutely no problems.” She added: “I only want to focus on sports and I think if you’re tolerant towards everyone else they treat you the same way and it gives you a lot of joy.”

She really has no issue with Russia?

Apparently. “I don’t think it’s a good idea to make protests here, no one cares,” she insisted after training on Sunday. “I know Russia will go and make the right steps in the future and we should give them time.” She also said: “I am here as a sportswoman. I always say I’m together with my woman now and don’t have any problems, not in Russia or with the Austrian federation.”

I’m sure many would beg to differ. So what exactly is ski jumping anyway?

The sport, which originated in Norway in the 17th century, requires athletes to speed down a take-off ramp and jump. Ski jumping has been part of the Winter Olympics since the first Games in 1924, but it wasn’t until this year that women were finally permitted to compete, 16 years after campaigners first petitioned for their inclusion. Athletes jump further than the length of a football pitch at speeds of around 60mph and points are awarded for distance and style.

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