November 13 - A Canadian appeals court today dismissed a lawsuit by a coalition of women ski jumpers who wanted to have their sport included in next year's Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

A three-judge panel unanimously rejected the women's claim that local organisers were breaking Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by failing to hold ski jumping competitions for both men and women.

The panel upheld a lower court ruling in July that the International Olympic Committee (IOC), not the Vancouver organisers, decided what sports to include in the 2010 Olympics, and the IOC was not governed by Canadian law.

Ski jumping has been an Olympic sport since 1924, but is one of the few events in either the Winter or Summer Games that does not have competitions for men and women.

The IOC has refused to sanction women's ski jumping in the Games, arguing that not enough women are competing in the sport worldwide for it to qualify as an Olympic event.

The group of 14 international former and current ski jumpers, denied the IOC's claims, and argued more women were competing in ski jumping than in some other sports that have been included in the Olympics.

The British Columbia Court of Appeal panel issued the decision after a two-day court hearing in Vancouver.

A written opinion with the full reasons for the ruling was expected to be released at a later date.

John Furlong, the chief executive of Vancouver 2010, said the court victory was bittersweet for local organisers, and they hoped that women's ski jumping would be allowed by the IOC in future Olympics.

He said: "We appreciate the court's time and careful consideration of these complex issues.

"With 91 days remaining until the start of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, we must remain focused on our preparations to stage the 2010 sport programme as set out by the International Olympic Committee, including a men's ski jumping event. 

"We remain supportive of these remarkable young women and of having women's ski jumping added to the roster of future Olympic Winter Games." 

Vancouver claimed it has done everything it can to support women's ski jumping, including inviting Canadian women to all open/international training sessions at Whistler Olympic Park/Whistler Paralympic Park during the 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 seasons - amounting to over 1,000 training jumps in total - hosting competitions such as the Canadian Championships and the North American Junior Championships in January 2008 and the International Ski Federation (FIS) Ladies Continental Cup in December 2008, as well as offering Learn To Jump programmes for over 80 participants. 

Deborah Folka, a spokeswoman for the jumpers, signalled that the fight will continue, however.

She said: "They're going to keep fighting until they make it into the Olympics."

Folka said they must wait until the appeals court issues its written ruling before deciding if they will take the case to Canada's Supreme Court.

That court would be unlikely to hear it before the Games begin on February 12.