2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Spotlight: Lindsey Van | ParkRecord.com

2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Spotlight: Lindsey Van

Lindsey Van soars through the air during a jump. Van hopes to be a part of the inaugural women s ski jumping Olympic team. Dan Campbell/Women's Ski Jumping USA

Just because Lindsey Van has 16 U.S. ski jumping national championships, a world championship, eight international victories and more than 50 top-three finishes internationally doesn’t mean there are things she hasn’t accomplished.

And just because Van has jumped about 20,000 times in her 20-plus year career (she’s been jumping since she was nine) doesn’t mean she still doesn’t have fun with the sport she’s dedicated her life to.

This season, in particular, has the potential to be a season full of firsts for Van.

Back in September, the 29-year-old Van and her teammates traveled to Ogden to work on their form in the iFLY wind tunnel, something Van had never done before.

Nina Lussi, Van’s Women’s Ski Jumping USA and U.S. Ski Team teammate, said that was a day everyone enjoyed.

"That was something Lindsey had been wanting to do for 15 to 20 years," she said. "She said it was the greatest experience. She was smiling and just really happy about it. It was great to see that. It’s nice to remind yourself how much you love the sport you’ve been doing for so long."

This World Cup season, Van will attempt to do something else she hasn’t done in a while stay as healthy as she possibly can for the full season. After battling injuries the last two years, she’s hoping this year’s full off-season of training pays dividends.

"I’m trying to keep it simple and have fun," she said. "I’m just looking for more consistency. For the last two seasons, in the summer, I was injured so I wasn’t able to train as much. Now, I’m focusing on the simpler things jumping every day and making every jump count."

If Van does stay healthy and continues her season of solid jumping, she’s in line to earn a spot on the U.S. Olympic ski jumping team in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, which will be the first time women ski jumpers are allowed to compete at the Olympic level.

Van, who was instrumental in getting the Olympic Committee to recognize the merits of women’s ski jumping, said she’s thrilled to have the opportunity to represent Team USA.

"It’s great," she said. "It was a long road there and took a lot of energy. It makes you appreciate the process."

But, she quickly added, there is still a lot of work left to do to make women fully equal with men, like including a Nordic combined event and having women compete on 120-meter hills as well as the smaller hills.

"The sport has made a step forward, but there are still a lot of things that need to change," she said. "I’m going to keep fighting for that."

She and her coach, Paolo Bernardi, say it’s only a matter of time before the Olympic Committee recognizes how much women’s ski jumping has grown in the last few years and how many women are competing at a high level.

"Every single winter now, women’s ski jumping in the world gets more challenging and harder," Bernardi said. "Some of the other countries have quite young rosters and they can develop their athletes, I can’t say more than us, but of course, being young, the training is different."

Though the depth of quality athletes in the sport is on the rise, Bernardi thinks Van and teammate Jessica Jerome, another veteran, have the talent to keep the U.S. on top while Sarah Hendrickson recovers from a knee injury.

"Last year, Jessica and Lindsey were really close fourth, fifth several times," he said. "We want to get them back on the podium so they can have an extra boost going into the Olympics."

Until then, Van and her teammates will prepare for the World Cup season, which begins on Dec. 7 with a competition in Lillehammer, Norway. She said she’ll keep taking it one event at a time until the Olympics in February.

"I’m trying not to think about it a whole lot," she said. "But people want to talk about the Olympics a lot. It’s great to get exposure for the sport, but it’s pretty daunting."

Every week until the start of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, The Park Record will highlight an Olympic hopeful with ties to the Park City area. Check back next week for a story about ski jumper Jessica Jerome.

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