Winter Games Athletes
Jerome holds the distinction of being the first-ever U.S. woman ski jumper to qualify for the Olympics by virtue of winning the Olympic trials in December, beating Lindsey Van by two points. That, however, was perhaps the easiest part of her journey to Sochi, as Jerome was among some of the top jumpers who finally won their long battle to have women's ski jumping included in the Games. She and other competitors had filed a gender discrimination lawsuit to force inclusion for the Vancouver Olympics, only to have it fail, before the IOC finally added the event for Sochi in 2011. "I didn't see it as something noble, I saw it more as a moral responsibility," Jerome said in October. "I never wanted these really talented girls, who are 8, 9 and 10 years old now, to have to deal with that ... If they don't have to deal with that, then I feel like I've done something good." Jerome can now focus on medaling in Sochi, which she may have a good chance to do. The top American in the World Cup standings at 14th, she placed 10th in the final World Cup Olympic qualifying event Jan. 19 for the highest U.S. finish. A 10-time national champion in normal and large hill, Jerome started jumping at age 7, begging her parents to let her try after her hometown Park City Ski Club came to her class to promote the sport. "Honestly, I don't know if I can wrap my head around it yet," Jerome said of making it to Sochi. "It sounds cliched, but it is a dream come true. I can't wait to go and represent my country." More than a decade ago, Jessica's father Peter played a large role in helping to start a foundation to support the financially strapped women's team. That nonprofit organization has become Women's Ski Jumping USA, which now supports one of the top teams in the world.