Hendrickson working toward flying again
Parkite jumped off of famed East Coast ski jump
Sarah Hendrickson has had a rollercoaster of a career that seems to be stuck at the bottom of a drop. The former ski jumping champion has battled a knee injury for the last two years, which has hindered her performance in the 2016-2017 World Cup season.
Though she isn’t happy with the way the year has gone, Hendrickson accomplished something no other ski jumper has done since the 1980s. In early March, she jumped off of the Nansen Ski Jump in New Hampshire.
It’s hard to imagine a better start to one’s career, considering Hendrickson mustered up a World Cup title in 2012 (the first women’s World Cup season ever). She also finished as the runner-up the following year, and even became the first woman to ski jump in an Olympic event. Women were first allowed to participate in ski jumping in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Not long before the 2014 Olympics, however, Hendrickson, a Park City native, suffered a serious knee injury that required surgery. She would be out for the next few months, but cleared to go right before the Olympics.
After the world-wide competition, though, she re-injured the same knee in a training session in June 2015. It was a blow to the budding star’s career, as it forced her to miss the 2015-2016 World Cup season.
The same injury still affects her 22 months later.
“It’s been pretty frustrating,” Hendrickson said. “Physically, everything is there, but still just struggling with getting back into the intensity of competition on my knee and the mental side of things. Trusting my knee again.”
Still young at 22 years old, Hendrickson is slowly getting back to peak form. She said she hasn’t been happy with her performance for this year’s World Cup season. Hendrickson hasn’t won a World Cup competition this season, but she did finish as the top American in 23rd place at the World Ski Championships in Lahti.
Hendrickson, who has grown accustomed to winning in her short career, can’t help but be irritated. But her coaches are saying otherwise.
“I’m pretty frustrated with how the season’s gone, but my coaches are calming me down, telling me that this is actually a good way to come back and just set the foundation for continuing my training for next year,” Hendrickson said/
This year wasn’t a waste for Hendrickson. Although she didn’t get the results she wanted, she has plenty of time to get back to the top of her sport.
But it wasn’t a lost season for another reason. The famous Nansen Ski Jump in New Hampshire was constructed in 1936 and built a reputation as one of the most notable ski jumps in America. It was even home to the first U.S. Olympic Trials.
It’s been quite a while since the jump has seen action: 32 years, to be exact. The jump hosted its last event in 1985. Since, it’s had no upkeep and no maintenance. It seemed as if it would stand until the elements got to it and knocked it down.
Instead, the New Hampshire State Parks decided to restore the hill for one last jump. Hendrickson, who does have family from New Hampshire, wanted to be the one to take that leap.
“It’s been a two-year process to get everything [set up],” Hendrickson said. “They had to re-deck and rebuild the hill and touch it up a little bit. We had some tough weather conditions, but we were able to pull it off.”
Last Saturday, Hendrickson, who is used to skiing on world-class venues, climbed to the top off the rickety, old wooden ski jumping hill. With her injury on her mind nearly all season, this was an opportunity for her to let loose and achieve something outside a competition setting.
“It was definitely a different mindset that I had to have,” Hendrickson said. “It was pretty fun to step out of that competition mode and switch it up a little bit. Ski jumping is very traditional, so you don’t normally get that very much.”
Sitting less than a year away from the 2018 Winter Olympics, Hendrickson knows there’s work left to be done. This next year, she hopes to get her knee right so that she can be the jumper she knows she can be by the time the Olympics roll around.
For now, her simple plan is to get some rest so she can get back to flying the way she knows how.
“Next month, I just need to be pretty calm, pretty relaxed,” Hendrickson said. “When I start training again in May, [I need to] be re-motivated and ready for the next 10 brutal months ahead.”
“Flying is priceless. There’s not really any words to describe that amazing feeling.”
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