Above the rest: Hendrickson wins World Cup title | ParkRecord.com

Above the rest: Hendrickson wins World Cup title

Christopher Kamrani, The Park Record

Six months ago, Sarah Hendrickson was terrorizing opposing defenders on the left side of the midfield for the Park City High School girls’ soccer team.

Fast forward to last weekend and the 17-year-old Park City resident sealed up the inaugural women’s ski jumping World Cup circuit overall title Saturday in Zao, Japan. The youngster has won eight of 12 World Cup events this season and enters this Friday’s World Cup finale in Oslo, Norway, with nothing more than one more competition to add to her win total.

"It’s pretty crazy and I don’t even know how to put it into words," said Hendrickson in a press release.

Women’s Ski Jumping USA head coach Paolo Bernardi said he’s never seen an athlete dominate a sport as swiftly as Hendrickson has.

"She’s stable and focused at this high level, and that’s something amazing for a 17-year-old," he said from Oslo Tuesday morning. "When it’s time to train and go into the competition, she’s 100 percent focused.

"She’s a one-of-a-kind athlete to me. You don’t find that many athletes in the world at this age that are already so professional."

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On Saturday, Hendrickson sealed the overall World Cup title with a victory in the first competition in Zao, and a second-place finish in the second of two jumps.

On Sunday, the Parkite had jumps of 98 and 94.5 meters, which score brought her total to 249.1 points, giving her the eighth World Cup victory in 12 events.

"Knowing that I already had secured the overall title, it made it easier to jump well," said Hendrickson in a press release. "I’m a little tired, but this has been amazing and I’m looking forward to Oslo and finishing out this great first World Cup season and enjoying it with my teammates."

However, heading into this weekend’s World Cup finale, Hendrickson is battling the rigorous round-the-globe travel schedule. Bernardi said she wasn’t feeling too well Tuesday morning, and was taking it easy in preparation for her 2012 farewell.

"It’s not a surprise to me that she’s the strongest in the world," he said. "I’m impressed that she’s stayed two months in Europe without going home.

"Right now, Sarah Hendrickson has impressed me more than any other athlete I’ve worked with in the past that were either Olympic champions or World Champions."

While the 17-year-old is walking in boots no other female athlete ever has, Bernardi said his prodigy is ready for the circuit to wind down and to return to Park City and resume her life as an ordinary teenager.

"She wants to join the company of friends," he said. "That’s the other good part of her, she’s 17 and she’s a normal teenager. Outside competition, she’s not acting or thinking ‘I’m the best in the world.’ She’s always looking forward. She’s just living in the moment as best possible. That’s the most important part."

Asked what he expects from Hendrickson in Oslo this weekend, the head coach laughed. The pressure of being the best doesn’t get to Hendrickson, who won the World Cup opener in December in Lillehammer, Norway, becoming the first woman ever to win an International Ski Federation World Cup competition.

"She knows what she has to do," Bernardi said.