Sarah Hendrickson struggled with a tailwind on her first jump, finishing sixth in the women's ski jumping medals round Friday evening in Falun. (Getty Images/AFP-Christof Stache)
FALUN, Sweden (Feb. 20, 2015) - A tailwind on her first of two jumps throttled back Sarah Hendrickson (Park City, UT), with the defending World Champion finishing sixth. She led two Americans into the top-10, with Jessica Jerome (Park City, UT) ninth on a very strong second jump. Germany's Carina Vogt came from behind to take gold. Japan's Yuki Ito won silver and first-run leader Daniela Iraschko-Stolz took bronze.
Hendrickson came into the event as the defending World Champion. But she also came in knowing the reality that recovery from a horrific crash 18 months earlier was still dictating her comeback. Back-to-back podiums a week ago in Slovenia buoyed her confidence. But a touch of tailwind on her first jump took the wind out of her sails.
"I was on the bar and knew [about the tailwind] immediately," said Hendrickson, who ended up going 87.0 meters. "I didn’t have a fantastic jump technically, but I had the worst wind of the whole round. It’s frustrating, but it’s part of the sport. I’m glad I came back with a strong second jump."
Hendrickson stood eighth after the first round - one spot ahead of her rival from two years ago, Sara Takanashi of Japan. Austria's Daniela Iraschko-Stolz held the lead by two points over Germany's Carina Vogt. Jerome stood 14th.
In the second round, Jerome came down and launched a strong 90.5 meter ride to move into the lead. Her jump would stand as the fifth best of the second round. Hendrickson came down a few skiers later, soaring out to 90.5 for the fourth best score of the round, putting her into sixth and earning her at least a spot at the prizegiving ceremony Saturday night.
"The second jump felt great," said Hendrickson. "I cheered. I was very happy. It’s fun to go further! Even if I didn’t win, having a far jump is what I love about ski jumping. That’s what I have to take from today and build on it."
Jerome, meanwhile, put all the pieces together for her second jump and was thrilled. "The second round, I did what I was supposed to do," said Jerome. "Obviously, it went four meters farther. So, I¹m happy with the second jump." It landed her into ninth, putting two Americans in the top-10.
Hendrickson knew defense of her title would be tough. And she has kept a keen focus on the future - World Championships again in two years in Finland and PyeongChang 2018. "My goal is to win gold in Korea. That’s what I’m training for. I don’t train to be 10th. I train to win," she said. "I haven’t worked as hard as I’ve ever worked before these past 18 months. I kind of thought the fight was over after I made it to Sochi, but I was very very wrong. Mentally and emotionally, I’ve been suffering. The physical is there, but the mental side is a huge part of this sport. I’m actually really happy with my sixth place today."
The U.S. also put four athletes into the top 18. Nita Englund (Florence, WI) was 12th with Tara Geraghty-Moats (W. Fairlee, VT) 18th - both making their major event debut. Abby Hughes (Park City, UT) was 34th in her comeback from double knee surgery last fall.
The women are back in action together with the men on Sunday for a first-ever mixed gender team event. The two-man, two-woman team will be named Saturday.
I haven’t worked as hard as I’ve ever worked before these past 18 months. I kind of thought the fight was over after I made it to Sochi, but I was very very wrong. Mentally and emotionally, I’ve been suffering. The physical is there, but the mental side is a huge part of this sport. I’m actually really happy with my sixth place today. It’s better than most of my results this whole season, so I can’t be upset with that.
The conditions didn’t cater to my jumping style and that’s OK. That’s how ski jumping is. The wind was quite fair considering where we are. I’m happy.
I was on the bar and knew [about the tailwind] immediately. My coach usually flags when we have 10 seconds to go on the green light and he waited until about four seconds left. He never does that. It’s kind of a mental game in that aspect. I didn’t have a fantastic jump technically, but I had the worst wind of the whole round, I think. Again, it’s frustrating, but it’s part of the sport. I’m glad I came back with a strong second jump.
The second jump felt great. I cheered. I was very happy. It’s fun to go further! Even if I didn’t win, having a far jump is what I love about ski jumping. That’s what I have to take from today and build on it.
I haven’t been doing a lot of training on large hills because of my knee, but I‘m ready for it. I’m ready to have a good result at Holmenkollen! My goal is to win. I won there two years ago and I’m ready again. I’m going home for the first time in seven weeks, which I’m also very excited about. But then I’m coming back and finishing off strong.
My goal is to win gold in Korea. That’s what I’m training for. I don’t train to be 10th. I train to win. That’s what I’m focusing on. We have a new coach this season and I’m guessing he’ll be with us for the next three years through Korea. He has some knowledge; he’s been around the block. Once we get working together, our team is going to be unstoppable.
Tonight was great. Today we were a little bit apprehensive, because we knew the nordic combiners¹ schedule was pushed back. It¹s notoriously windy here, but it calmed down for us. We had a very fair competition‹a good competition. I¹m happy with half of my jumping!
On the first jump, the first part was OK. But I¹ve also been working on the second part to not be so aggressive and kill the effect. And I did exactly what I¹ve been trying not to do. The second round, I did what I was supposed to do. Obviously, it went four meters farther. So, I¹m happy with the second jump.
I was a little disappointed with how I performed. I didn¹t really do my best. I let the pressure get to me, I guess. It was fine as an experience, but I flopped it. I was too nervous about it. I¹ll learn to relax more in competitions.
The whole week I struggled with my timing. That was really difficult to go from there, to let the flight develop. I was just late on most of my jumps. That was really tricky. I think the biggest issue was that I let the pressure get to me.
We have one more big hill competition in Oslo. I love jumping big hills, so it should be good. I¹m excited about it. I¹m just going to take the experience in Oslo and go with it. I would definitely like if there were more big hill events for ladies. The Holmenkollen hill is legendary. It¹s at sea level, so there¹s tons of pressure, so it should be really fun. Just looking forward to some far jumps.
I¹m pretty happy with how I did. I had so much fun, such an amazing night. We had a little bit of tailwind, which was personally hard for me. In the trial round, there was some headwind, which I was able to use to get down the bottom of the hill. I just didn¹t have it in the second two rounds. I know it¹s there. In years to come, hopefully I can pull it out in competitions.
It¹s just such a strong field. Learning from my teammates and competitors and getting used to jumping in high level events is really where I¹m at right now.