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PARK CITY — Women ski jumpers have been fighting the International Olympics Committee since the 1998 Winter Games to be included as an Olympic sport. Now the first-ever trials are taking place in Park City on Sunday.
Even though she's been ski jumping for 18 years, 24-year-old Abby Hughes said there is definitely a different feeling about this year.
"It's really nerve-wracking," Hughes said. "We've never been in this situation before. It's really intense, but it's really exciting at the same time."
Hughes, born and raised in Park City, is a member of the Team USA Ski Team. She said she's hoping to be one of the ski jumpers to make the 2014 Olympics Team to compete in Sochi, Russia.
"Whether or not I make the team, it's still a huge stepping stone for the sport in general," Hughes said after a few practice jumps at Utah Olympic Park in Park City Thursday afternoon.
"It was a long battle for us for sure," said Alissa Johnson, who is also from Park City and on the U.S. Women's Ski Jumping Team.
Ski jumping was the last men-only ski sport until the IOC decided to include women for the Sochi Games. For many jumpers, Sochi is a chance to make up for lost time.
"You know, I wish I would have gone 10 years ago, but it didn't pan out that way," Johnson said. "So I think we're all happy and a little bit relieved that it's finally happening."
For up-and-coming ski jumpers, like 19-year-old Nina Lussi from Lake Placid, NY, she's grateful for the other women jumpers who fought so hard for her sport.
"I guess it's relieving to not have to deal with that myself and to have all these options just right in front of me," Lussi said.
The women said they have formed a close bond since fighting to be included in the Olympics. However, there are only four spots on the Olympic Team so not everyone will make it.
"It's tough, but its sports," Johnson said. "We're all very used to it. It's not a popularity contest. It's very much whoever is jumping the best gets to go."
"Even the relationship within the team is changing. We're all competitive with each other and I think it's helping push us to be better every day," Hughes said.
The ski jumping Olympic trials, as well as Nordic combined, will be aired live on KSL TV on Sunday. The winner of the ski jumping trials will get the first of four spots on the team. The other three spots will be decided Jan. 22, 2014.