CHICAGO -- RaShaunda Dooley was sure that she could pass the Chicago firefighters physical abilities test.
A personal trainer helped her get in shape. And her mother, uncle and cousin, all Chicago firefighters, saw to it that she knew how to drag a hose across the floor and climb a flight of stairs carrying 20-pound gear.
But when Dooley took the test last year, she failed. So did dozens of other athletic women, including marathon runners, triathletes, lifeguards and spin class instructors.
"When I finished the test, I thought I had passed," said Dooley, 27, who put her firefighting aspirations on hold and is now a communications major at Roosevelt University. "My cousin was pinned by my uncle and I was looking forward to being pinned by my mom and keeping up the family tradition."
For many women, physical abilities tests have been the major barrier keeping them from becoming firefighters. While firefighter exams have long been controversial in departments across the country, Chicago has become latest target in a legal battle over whether the test discriminates against women.