Q&A with Sarah Hendrickson: Her goal for Pyeongchang? Just appreciate the experience | ParkRecord.com

Q&A with Sarah Hendrickson: Her goal for Pyeongchang? Just appreciate the experience

Editor's note: Answers have been lightly edited for style.

Sarah Hendrickson is one of Park City's most recognizable athletes and a pioneer in the sport of women's ski jumping. The Park Record caught up with her before she headed to Pyeongchang to talk about qualifying for the Games in front of a hometown crowd, her difficult path back to the Olympics and what she hopes to accomplish in South Korea and beyond.

What was it like to win the Olympic Team Trials at the Utah Olympic Park in December and earn your spot on Team USA in front of a home crowd in Park City?

Park City has been home for my whole life and I am so thankful that I have a community behind my career. It was priceless and breathtaking. I will never forget that day.

What does it mean to be competing in the Olympics again after fighting through a number of injuries that have kept you from reaching peak performance since the 2014 Games?

It proves to myself that hard work pays off. The last four years felt like the downs were never going to end. I just wanted to be back ski jumping without pain. I kept fighting and now I get to be a two-time Olympian.

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How have the challenges you've gone through since experiencing so much success early in your career prepared you for competing again on the world's biggest stage?

My injuries mainly but also funding issues through the federations (thankfully my sponsors have never dropped out — Nike, Red Bull, Visa, Fluege.de). After six knee surgeries, you heal and you come back, but you missed years of competing/training. Therefore, you are playing constant catchup and overtime. And with a growing sport, it is really hard to fight back and land where you were before. It still doesn't feel like I am "back" because my level is still struggling on the hill.

What are your goals for these Games?

My goals for these Games are to enjoy and appreciate everything. I don't want to put a result goal in my head. I have worked too hard to walk away disappointed based off a number.

Given your role in pioneering the sport of women's ski jumping, what would it mean to return home with a medal?

I wake up everyday dreaming and training to win a medal, but honestly I have protected myself and planned for reality. It's one day out of four years — of course it would mean everything to me, but I focus on other things.

How has the sport changed since it debuted in the Sochi Games, and where do you envision it going in the future?

The growth in women's ski jumping has been huge. We have 60 girls at every World Cup, more development competitions and up to 18 countries at World Cups. It's incredible to see.

What's next for you personally after Pyeongchang?

Not sure about my plan after Korea. I will have to listen to my heart and see where it takes me. For sure, in the future it includes a lot of college and I cannot wait for that. Education is really important to me.