Hendrickson eyeing gold after leap of faith

Thu Feb 6, 2014 10:21am EST
 
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By David Ljunggren

(Reuters) - When American ski jumping sensation Sarah Hendrickson takes her first leap at the Sochi Olympic Games this month, it will be testament to the willpower that helped her recover from a horrific injury.

Last August, the 19-year-old world champion flew too far on a practice jump in Germany and smashed into the ground, tearing both the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in her right knee and badly damaging both sides of her meniscus.

"I laid at the bottom of the hill and thought everything was over and that sponsors were going to drop me and that my dreams of becoming an Olympian for this year were over," said Hendrickson, who had been one of the favorites to take gold in the inaugural women's jumping event.

Normally, an injury like that could take a full year to recover from, but when medical experts told her she had a chance of making the Olympics, she did all she could to get there.

The first step was to have her knee reconstructed.

"Once I'd had surgery I was in so much pain I didn't want to put any pressure on (the knee) and I completely pushed the thoughts of Sochi out of my head," she told Reuters.

When the knee had healed enough she started a series of agonizing exercises with a physiotherapist that often reduced her to tears. And then, while her team mates were competing, she spend eight hours a day six days a week in the gym.

"I trained my butt off and I'm stronger than ever," she said.   Continued...

 
Olympic ski jumper Sarah Hendrickson poses for a portrait during the 2013 U.S. Olympic Team Media Summit in Park City, Utah October 1, 2013 file photo. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson