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Sarah Hendrickson soars through the air during a jump at the 2013 World Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy.

Sarah Hendrickson had just started ski jumping when the 2002 Winter Olympics came to Park City.

She had watched her older brother, Nick, take up the sport and decided to try it out for herself at the age of seven.

Now the 18-year-old Park City resident is the world champion and looking forward to competing in an Olympic competition of her own.

"Right now, my goal is just to make the team," she said. "It's still 11 months away, so anything can happen."

But with a World Championships gold medal now on her résumé, her confidence is at an all-time high heading into the rest of the 2012-13 season.

"It hasn't really sunk in yet; it's been kind of crazy," she said. "I'm super happy. Every day I'd wake up and dream of that day, so for it to happen was really cool."

Up at the top of the hill in Val di Fiemme, Italy, Hendrickson said she was more nervous than she usually is before a big jump.

"For ski jumping, you want to be as relaxed as possible," she said. "It's not that easy to balance your nervousness."

But that's exactly what she did, jumping 347 feet, nine inches and a score of 253.7 points, besting Japan's Sara Takanashi by 2.7 points.

After Hendrickson was declared the winner, she was mobbed by her teammates, who put her on their shoulders while she waved an American flag.


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After going through knee surgery in April 2012 and being forced to compete on shorter skis after the post-surgery weight loss due to FIS rules, Hendrickson wasn't able to match her impressive 2011-12 season, during which she won nine of the 13 events and won the World Cup overall title in the sport's inaugural season. But she still won an event in Sochi, Russia, site of the 2014 Olympics, on Dec. 8.

Though Takanashi has already clinched the 2013 World Cup title, ensuring Hendrickson won't defend her title, she still has something to compete for in the last couple events of the season.

"I'm still in the running for a podium," she said.

After the season comes to an end, it will be on to the offseason workouts for Hendrickson and her teammates.

"We do a lot of training on and off the hill," she said. "It can be pretty strenuous."

But, she added, all that training will be worth it if it leads to a trip to Sochi next February.

Most importantly though, Hendrickson said she wants to make sure she keeps having fun.

"I just want to keep enjoying the sport and enjoying the travel," she said.