KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia - The triumph of getting women's ski jumping into the Olympics is tinged with sadness for Canadian head coach Gregor Linsig.
At the last minute, injury denied Calgary's Alexandra Pretorius a chance to be part of history at the Sochi Games. Canada will be represented in the women's event by Atsuko Tanaka and Taylor Henrich, also of Calgary.
The Canadian Olympic Committee announced Pretorius' withdrawal on Sunday. Three days later, Linsig was clearly still emotional about the injury setback.
"I feel like she's been cheated out of this. Because leading up to this she was our best athlete. Never in my life have I felt so disappointed," Linsig said after a news conference showcasing the team Wednesday. "Not at her, but at the circumstance. It was a huge bummer, but life goes on."
Pretorius was back in training after undergoing surgery last August to repair her anterior cruciate ligament, only to reinjure the knee.
"She worked her butt off," Linsig said. "We were just back practising, training in Whistler. It happened on a landing where she landed a little incorrectly, a little too far back for the way her knee was at that point. So it was a little bit too much strain."
Pretorius won gold at a 2012 Grand Prix competition, Canada's first victory at that level since Horst Bulau in 1983. She won the first Grand Prix of the summer in 2013 before tearing up the knee during a landing in training in Courchevel, France.
The 18-year-old is due to be in Russia this weekend to watch her teammates.
"When she got injured she was the best in the world. And I don't think any other person involved with this sport would disagree with me," said Linsig. "And to see her get injured at the peak of her career was devastating enough. For her to come back the way she did and jump and be with our team again so quickly, then to have this happen just two days before we left just felt like a slap in the face.
"I still feel bad for her. But it will be nice to see her our here cheering on her teammates and the boys too."
In the Canadian Olympic Committee statement, Pretorius cited "a tragic reinjured knee."
"Although this is heartbreaking news I will be cheering on all Canadians and I look forward to having my chance at the next Winter Olympic Games," she added.
The IOC twice rejected women's ski jumping for the 2010 Games in Vancouver, saying the sport lacked enough elite competitors. Women jumpers took their case to the Supreme Court of Canada, but failed to overturn the IOC decision in time for Vancouver.
In April 2011, the IOC added women's ski jumping to the 2014 Winter Games program. Men have been competing in Olympic ski jumping since 1924.
Wednesday's news conference with the Canadian jumpers was dominated by questions over the inaugural women's competition.
"Speaking for all the women ski jumpers in the world, it's a great privilege," said Henrich. "We're really, really excited."
"We're all ready to show the world what we have here," added Tanaka.
A question to the men on the team of the inequality of not letting women compete in the past drew a candid response from Trevor Morrice.
Could they imagine being denied a chance at doing something because of their gender?
"I don't know if there's a nice way to put this, but no," replied the 22-year-old from Calgary.
While it's the first Olympics for the women, Linsig stressed that the Canadians have plenty of top-level experience jumping.
- Sports & Recreation
- Canadian Olympic Committee