A rising star felled by injuries, Sarah Hendrickson still dreams of Olympic medals in her second Games

Sports

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — For one glorious afternoon, Bill Hendrickson saw his daughter living the experience she deserved.

“She looked like her old Sarah self,” said the Park City man who introduced his then-7-year-old daughter to the sport that would carry her to two Olympic Games. “She has struggled so much with knee pain and disappointment, and she hasn’t been in top form for a while. It was very rewarding, and, with the energy of the crowd, a beautiful day, you could see the confidence return to her. She has high expectations for herself, and I could see the relief, see it falling off her shoulders, see the joy replace it, consume her. And she was really back to ‘This is why I work so hard.’”

Earning a spot on her second Olympic team was the highlight of the 22-year-old’s 2017-18 season. That’s because it’s been a long, difficult road for Sarah Hendrickson, from that brilliant afternoon during the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Games to the Alpensia Ski Jump center in the mountains of Pyeongchang, South Korea.

The 23-year-old’s affection for ski jumping was born that afternoon with her father, but, as she aged, it became a much more complicated relationship, fraught with the kind of frustration and heartbreak that requires a level of grit and commitment so intense, it could only from a deep, abiding love.

When she burst onto the scene as an adorable, dimpled, Park City High student, she seemed destined to be a force in the sport. Women’s ski jumping was thrust onto the world stage in 2010 when women sued the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the opportunity to compete in the 2010 Olympic Games. The IOC repeatedly rejected the efforts of women around the world, led by former Salt Lake City Mayor Deedee Corradini, to gain access to one of the Winter Olympics’ oldest, most traditional events.

When the women finally won that right in 2013, Hendrickson and her teammates were consistently among the world’s best. At 17, she won the first ever World Championship, edging Japan’s teenage sensation Sara Takanashi. Six months after that victory in Val Di Fiemme, she tore her ACL on a training jump in Oberstdorf, where a day earlier, she’d recorded her person best jump.

U.S. Ski and Snowboard officials named her to the U.S. team, despite her being unable to even compete in the U.S. Olympic Trials, held a month before the Sochi Winter Games in 2014.

Hendrickson was granted the honor of being the first woman to jump in the Olympic Games, but she was not 100 percent and finished 21st, behind two of her U.S. teammates — Jessica Jerome (10th) and Lindsey Van (15th). Corradini, who was in the stands as the women competing, died a year after that historic moment at age 70.

In the months and years after 2014 Games, Hendrickson endured three more knee surgeries and repeated injuries that have meant daily knee pain and almost constant frustration. Her physical struggles have relegated her to the periphery of a sport that it …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Sports News

      

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