The last time Sarah Hendrickson and her teammates ski jumped on the Midstubakken hill in Oslo, Norway, they had a job to do.
This time, it was purely for joy.
Hendrickson, having already clinched the inaugural World Cup overall title last weekend in Zao, Japan, finished first in the final competition of the season, with jumps of 104 and 99 meters. Hendrickson bested Japan’s Sara Takanashi (second) who set a hill record of 108 meters on her second jump. Norway’s longtime star Anette Sagen (third) just edged out fellow veteran Lindsey Van, USA, (fourth) for the podium. USA Teammates Jessica Jerome was 13th, Abby Hughes was 27th, and Alissa Johnson was 34th.
“Every jump is a blast,” said Hendrickson, the 17-year-old from Park City, Utah, who will come home with the coveted crystal globe trophy. “Sure, there’s always some pressure — it’s the World Cup — but everyone went into this last competition to have fun and do their best. I was relieved when I landed on the last jump and all of a sudden, the season was over just like that.”
More than a year ago in Oslo, women ski jumpers from around the world fought through the nearly impossible conditions of thick fog and unpredictable wind in the 2011 World Ski Jumping Championships. They had to prove to the International Olympic Committee that they belonged in the Olympic Winter Games. And they did. Women will ski jump in the Games for the first time in Sochi, Russia, in 2014.
This year, with the enormous pressure off and the politics set aside, the skies cleared slightly for the talented field of 47 jumpers.
“I definitely came here with a bitter taste in my mouth,” said Van, the 2009 World Champion, who didn’t perform to her potential last year in Oslo and finished 34th, not making the second-round cut for the first time in her career.
“I felt automatic relief after one of my training jumps Thursday, which was 27 meters longer than my jump here last year,” she quipped. “I didn’t have anything to lose, so I just put it out there and had a lot of fun jumping today (Friday). I’m happy with the way it ended. It was redemption for me, for sure.”
This season was even sweeter for the U.S. Women’s Ski Jumping Team, which finished the season No. 1 overall by more than 600 points over Germany.
“It hasn’t set in yet. It’s just really so cool, especially for ski jumping in the USA — we’re just not known for that,” Van said. “This is about an entire team’s results over the course of a season and I’m proud of our team for this victory.”
Women’s Ski Jumping USA International Coach Paolo Bernardi, is amazed by his team’s performance.
“I think that I’m going to realize this season in one month because I have too many emotions (now)…” he said. “This winter, everything was perfect – just perfect. And I want to enjoy this moment.”
Hendrickson won the World Cup opener in December in Lillehammer, Norway, and Friday’s first-place was her 9th win out of 13 competitions.
Arline Bownes, Hendrickson’s 81-year-old grandmother, was in the crowd Friday, watching her ski jump for the first time in eight years. Hendrickson was just 9 years old the last time her grandmother got to watch her soar on a jump — one that Hendrickson’s father, Bill, actually helped build in his youth in Plymouth, New Hampshire.
“It’s so memorable to have Sarah’s grandmother here,” Nancy Hendrickson said. “My father is gone, but I know dad has been on Sarah’s wings this whole season.”
World Cup Final
Friday, March 9, 2012
Women’s Normal Hill, HS106, K-point 95m
1. Sarah Hendrickson, USA, (104.0m 99m) 254.1 points
2. Sara Takanashi, JPN, (100.5 108.0) 250.7
3. Anette Sagen, (102.0 97) 236.2
4. Lindsey Van, USA, (97.5 98.0) 232.9
5. Daniela Iraschko, AUT, (101.5 96.5) 230.5
6. Jacqueline Seifriedsberger, AUT, (101.0 97.0) 229.5
13. Jessica Jerome, USA (92.5 90.0) 201.3
27. Abby Hughes, USA (86.5 91.0) 178.4
34. Alissa Johnson, USA, (83.5) 83.9
Overall Individual World Cup Standings 2011/2012
1. Sarah Hendrickson, USA, 1,169
2. Daniela Iraschko, AUT, 779
3. Sara Takanashi, JPN, 639
4. Ulrike Graessler, GER, 546
5. Lindsey Van, USA, 482
6. Anette Sagen, NOR, 454
7. Katja Pozun, SLO, 422
8. Melanie Faisst, GER, 409
9. Jessica Jerome, USA, 395
10. Coline Mattel, FRA, 328
25. Abby Hughes, USA, 109
31. Alissa Johnson, USA, 73
Overall Nations World Cup Standings 2011/2012
(points, top 6)
1. United States, 2,228
2. Germany, 1,601
3. Japan, 1,251
4. Austria, 1,173
5. Slovenia, 934
6. Norway, 828