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Sochi Bound (1/24/14)

BY SARAH HENDRICKSON

First-ever women's ski jumping team! Jessica Jerome, me, Lindsey
Van

I stood at the top of the ski jump for the first time in five months. I looked down the hill that I have jumped thousands of times and took a deep breath. I was trying to clear my mind of all the doubts that were running through it: Everything from the fear of my knee being able to withstand the pressure to the concept of my body remembering how to ski jump. People ask if ski jumping is scary and I guess my new answer is yes—if you do it four and a half months after total reconstructive knee surgery.

Since I started jumping, my coaches always told me to never stand at the top of a new hill longer than necessary. Your mind starts to wander and you over think what you are about to do. With that in mind, I slid out on to that bar, first jump back, checked my bindings like I have a million times and let go of that bar. Those 10 seconds of that ski jump, was the first time in five months that I have felt pure happiness. The second I left the bar, my muscle memory took over and it was as if I had never stopped. Flying through the air, safely landing and coming to a stop, my grin a mile wide. Goal number one: accomplished.

I have now been jumping for the past two weeks and I can’t even explain how much fun it has provided. The smile on my face is similar to a kid in a candy shop and it’s amazing how such a simple thing can bring me so much joy. I figured out that I belong on a ski jump and with that, I have completely re-fallen in love with ski jumping.

On Wednesday, Jan. 22, the team announcement for the women ski jumpers going to the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games was held. Since I haven’t competed in any world cups, I was relying on the coaches’ discretionary spot for the team. My coach, Alan Alborn, and the board on the U.S. Ski Team agreed that I deserved to go to Russia and with that, I am going to be an Olympian. Alan put together numerous stats to prove that with my results from the past two seasons and the world championship title showed that I was a strong enough jumper for a spot. Alan has also instilled confidence in me with my level of jumping in the past weeks and voices that I am ready for Sochi.

As many of you know, back in August my goal was to make Sochi. As a goal-driven human being, I set my goal to make it to Sochi although I knew that anything can happen in the course of a recovery process. However, doubts aside, I pushed through, day in and day out. Tear after tear. This was hands down the hardest thing I have ever set my mind to and to be named an Olympian knowing that I have reached my goal, fulfilled my dreams and representing the United States of America shows just how glad I am to push through. Goal number two: Accomplished.

Goal three, you may ask? You can make assumptions, but for me I’m going to have the time of my life representing Team USA at the high level of competition with the biggest smile on my face.

A huge thanks for all my supporter that helped me get where I am today — from my amazing doctor and physical therapist to everyone in between. They deserve the credit just as much as myself, and I happy to make them proud in Sochi!