Guest opinion: I was a trailblazer in women’s ski jumping. But it was only possible with the help of many others.
I fell in love with the sport of ski jumping for many reasons. I loved the challenge, thrill, excitement, precision and adrenaline that fueled my athletic side. However, as the years went by, components like travel, community, sponsors, athletes and coaches led to my love and passion for this unique and phenomenal sport. The opportunities that I have been given through 15 years of regional, national and international competition is nothing short of incredible, and I am incredibly grateful.
When I was first introduced into the sport (thank you Dillon “Pickle” Keate, Gregor Linsig, Clint Jones, “Crash”) I became obsessed with flying far and jumping bigger hills. At the time, women’s ski jumping was not a World Cup or an Olympic sport. This never deterred me from my training because I had found my passion and that was all that mattered. As the years went by, it became clear that I could not only ski jump as a hobby, but as a career. Thanks to incredible people like Deedee Corradini, Peter Jerome, the older women jumpers (Lindsey Van, Jessica Jerome, Alissa Johnson, Abby Hughes-Ringquist) and the entire Women’s Ski Jumping USA nonprofit community. The involvement of lobbying and fighting for women’s equality became routine when I was 13, which led to me having the opportunities that I did.
The fight for women’s ski jumping being added to the Olympics ended with me being the first female in history to ski jump in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games. However, it started decades ago with a community of supporters, including financial supporters like Visa, local supporters in Park City, dedicated parents and an incredible team of strong and resilient women ski jumpers. I was fortunate enough to fly over the Olympic rings twice, but I was only able to do that because of the help from so many people.
The highlights of my career include a World Cup crystal globe, 2013 World Championship gold in Italy, 2012 and 2013 World Cup team champions and several World Junior medals. However, without a doubt, the most memorable times were singing in the van on the way to competitions throughout Europe, laughing on the Today Show with Lindsey Van and Jessica Jerome, and running across the Olympic Village to see and hug my family. My athletic achievements may have put me in the history books, but the laughter and the power of sport has provided me with strength, grit and resilience that I will bring into my next career as a nurse. I am leaving ski jumping as an athlete, but I am dedicated to remaining involved politically, as the push for women’s equality is far from over.
Thank you so very much to the Park City community and my long-term sponsors — Red Bull, Visa, Nike, Fluege and Sleep Number, with the help of Michael Spencer, my agent. My incredible rock of a coach, Alan Alborn, who stood by me injury after injury and never, ever, gave up on me. WSJUSA, USA Nordic, USOC, U.S. Ski Team and Park City Nordic Ski Club (formerly The National Sports Foundation). My medical team includes many PTs, but specifically Jen Kimball and Jess Tidswell and surgeons Vern Cooley, Andrew Cooper and Brandon Lawrence. And my family and friends: Brian, my generous and supporting step-dad who never batted an eye when helping in any way; Nick, my brother, for being someone to look up to and consult with; my dad for giving me perfectionism and accuracy; and my incredible mom for unbiased advice, strong legs, stubborn drive and unconditional love and support.
Sarah Hendrickson is a retired ski jumper from Park City. She competed in the 2014 and 2018 Winter Olympics and won a gold medal in the 2013 World Championships.
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