Two knee injuries. Five surgeries. Eighteen months without a single jump. After almost three seasons of absence from the World Cup, with only a short period of competitions before the second fall inbetween, Sarah Hendrickson is back. The winner of the first ever Ladies World Cup 2011/12 and 2013 world champion is competing again to make up for the lost time. We have spoken with Sarah about her return and future plans.
How is the start of the season going for you?
Sarah: Lillehammer was a really great start. I had my goal of top 10 there, but you never really know, especially after being gone for so long with the injury, it’s really hard to say. I’m really happy with how it’s started and I know what exactly I need to do to step it up.
How does it feel to be going back to the rhythm of competitions, traveling and so on after being outside of this part of life for so long?
Sarah: I love it. Competition is a challenge that I missed. I missed just putting myself under pressure and you kinda lose that, so I love being back, I love being in a rhythm of intensity and being round competing athletes, I really missed it. It’s great to be back.
During these 18 months without competing what kept you optimistic?
Sarah: it’s definitely been hard but I just felt like I had more to accomplish in sport, I felt like I had a very unfortunate accident in 2013 which injured my knee first, so I felt like I had more to give, so I’m just dreaming about my goals and keep pushing day after day.
I’ve noticed that both times in the training the gate was lowered before your jumps. Was that a precaution?
Sarah: I think in my best jumps I can have the farthest jumps, and obviously I’m up and down right now because I haven’t had that many jumps since my injury, so my coach is just trying to protect me and I still have a mental barrier to overcome with my knee trusting it, so I’m just slowly getting back into it.
What are the season highlights for you?
Sarah: Obviously the World Championships coming up in February, it’s a highlight for me, and really it’s a building season for Olympics next year.
This season girls have two LH competitions instead of having one for last seasons. What’s your general opinion about LH competitions for girls, do you like them? Do you want more competitions like that?
Sarah: I think it’s fantastic that we have that. Again we’re building our sport. I don’t think we need all LH competitions but to gradually add them in. All the girls, at least those who are in top 30-top 40 are excited about LH competitions.
What are your impressions about the Nizhny Tagil hill?
Sarah: I haven’t been here before. It’s my first time here. It’s fantastic, the hill seems really nice, amazing job getting it prepared. And the snow is really nice in the landing zone, so absolutely no complains.
So, what are your impressions about the weather?
Sarah: Obviously it’s very cold, but we don’t have to do to many things outside if this make sense, so warming up is pretty cold but you can get your blood moving ,so it’s ok. I think it’s worse for coaches, spectators, the ones who are just standing there, so it is how it is. It kinda cool to see real winter because I think in Central Europe there is not so much snow and it’s not so cold. It’s nice to see winter around Christmas time.
It’s actually your third time in Russia, and the last one was in Sochi.. How do you recall this experience now, racing against the time to get to the Olympics and making it?
Sarah: It was obviously a kind of crazy scenario with me getting hurt and luckily, on the positive note, I could start in the competition with the BIB number 1. I just gotta be thankful for that, I was thankful to compete. Now I have goals for the next Olympics, for more results and going there healthy.
Who you think will be on top this season? Who you will be competing the most against?
Sarah: Sara Takanashi is very dominant, she’s a really strong competitor. I think everyone is fighting to beat her. Obviously her teammate Yuki Ito had a great start of season, but there is a lot of girls in top 10 and top 15 that have potential to win and to be on the podium, so it’s a pretty dense field and that’s really good to see.
Pictures: Daria Syrkova