- Ski Jumping
American Sarah Hendrickson discusses her road to Sochi
American ski jumper Sarah Hendrickson won the 2013 World Championship and was considered a gold medal threat at the Sochi Games. But during a training jump in Aug. 2013, Hendrickson crashed and suffered a torn ACL. Hendrickson began rehab and after months of hard work earned a spot on the United States ski jumping team. NBCOlympics.com talked to Hendrickson about her rehab and her Sochi outlook.
How does it feel to be an Olympian?
It feels surreal, and it’s been pretty hectic, I had my injury and I didn't know that Sochi was going to be possible. But now that I been finally named, I am really excited.
Embedded owg_slideshow: Model Olympian: Sarah Hendrickson
When did you know you could compete in Sochi?
I set a goal to compete in Sochi and the doctor said it was possible but ultimately I didn't know how realistic that was. Honestly I didn't really know until the second week of January. I put the hours in at the gym but I didn't know that would transfer to the hill. I didn't really know how I would do, it was a complete mystery to me. Which was really hard.
Did you have doubts for Sochi?
Yes, that first week after my crash I was a complete disaster, I don't think I stopped crying. It was really hard for me, but I told myself it was happening for a reason and that I would come back stronger than ever. Whether it was for the Olympic season or not, I needed to push those negative thoughts out of my head because it was not going to help me heal any faster.
Your main rival Sara Takanashi has been pretty dominant during the 2013-2014 World Cup season, you haven't competed at all this season and your next competition is the biggest of your career, how are your nerves during all this?
Well that question didn't make me nervous at all (laughs). I am trying to go into Sochi with an open mind and the way I am jumping right now; my coach is satisfied with it and I am satisfied with it. My coach says I am jumping at a high level. I have less than 20 jumps going into an Olympic event which is absolutely insane. I can look at the negatives of that but I have trained for this but I think there will be so much pressure and so much media that whoever is mentally strongest could win this competition.
What are your expectations for Sochi?
I set a goal to win gold in Sochi. But then I crashed, and my new goal was to qualify for Sochi. So now I feel like I accomplished my main goal and now I get to enjoy it. Of course I compete to win but I don't want to put that expectation on myself because I worked so hard and that was my main goal.
Is there and advantage to being an underdog and/or an unknown competitor in this competition?
Yes for sure, I think the other competitors not knowing how I am jumping may be threatening. I am the reigning World Champion and now I am considered an underdog due to my injury. I am just going with it and keeping an open mind. Sara Takanashi is an amazing athlete and is so strong, she is an amazing competitor and if I want to give her a run for her money I have to have my top day in Sochi.
Embedded owg_slideshow: Through the air: Sarah Hendrickson
How much hard work is needed to recover from a torn ACL in five months?
The first 12 weeks I was in the gym six to eight hours a day. Whether that was doing exercises or biking. It was day in and day out of agony and pain, it was exhausting. It was the only thing I was doing. I would go to the gym, come home, eat dinner and then go to bed. That is what I did every single day, I hardly hung out with friends. I don't regret any minute of it because of what I accomplished. It was the hardest thing I ever worked for in my life.
How scary was that first jump after your injury? And when did you feel your confidence begin to come back?
The first jump, I was shaking in my boots. I was trying to push all the negative thoughts out of my head and treat it as every other training day and not think about my ACL. It was pretty scary but by the second jump I felt good. My coach was pretty happy about how confident I looked on those first couple jumps. I just need to trust myself, my training and the muscle memory I built up over the years.
How much pressure are you going to feel on the actual day of the competition?
World Championships I was beyond nervous and the Olympics are a bigger event. It’s crazy to think that the entire World is watching you and it’s a lot of pressure. But I have to jump for myself and enjoy the experience. If you don’t like competing or don't like the pressure you are not in the right sport. Its OK to be nervous but that’s what fuels me. I worked so hard to get to this point and it’s so rewarding.