Ski jumper Sarah Hendrickson holds out hope for Sochi

Sarah Hendrickson soars through the air to win the women's ski jumping HS 106 Individual at the Nordic Ski World Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy, on Feb. 22. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

Sarah Hendrickson soars through the air to win the women’s ski jumping HS 106 Individual at the Nordic Ski World Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy, on Feb. 22. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

By Michael C. Lewis
The Salt Lake Tribune

Sitting in her apartment over the summer, ski jumping sensation Sarah Hendrickson carefully eluded questions that presumed she already had secured a chance to compete for a historic gold medal at the upcoming Sochi Olympics in Russia.

“A lot of people say, ‘Of course you’re going to make the team,’ ” she said at the time. “But anything can happen.”

Of course, anything did.

Just weeks later, the 19-year-old reigning world champion blew out her knee in a training crash in Germany, throwing into doubt her ability to recover in time for an Olympics that will feature her sport for the first time — after a long fight for inclusion led by Hendrickson’s older teammates, all from Park City.

Hendrickson still made an appearance at the U.S. Olympic Committee’s media summit just a few miles from her home recently to say she remains hopeful she can do it, but she did so while wearing a knee brace, walking with a cane and occasionally getting shuttled in a wheelchair, with just four months until the Olympics.

“My goal right now is, in January, I’ll be jumping,” she said.

That would allow Hendrickson a chance to regain some form and confidence, maybe compete in a World Cup event or two.

But Hendrickson knows nothing is assured.

She knows there’s a chance her body won’t heal in time, despite spending six hours a day in physical therapy at the U.S. Ski Team’s Center of Excellence in Park City after performing some 12,000 jumps in her life.

Her trajectory is frightfully close to mimicking that of fellow Utahn Noelle Pikus-Pace, the skeleton slider who was the reigning World Cup champion and gold-medal favorite before a runaway bobsled broke her leg.

She tried valiantly, but was unable to recover in time for the 2006 Turin Olympics in Italy.

“Obviously I know that if my doctors tell me that I’m not ready or I don’t pass my testing results — stuff like that — and I know it’s a possibility, I won’t jump,” Hendrickson said.

Hendrickson was training on the large hill in Oberstdorf on Aug. 21 when she crashed, tearing her anterior cruciate ligament, medial collateral ligament and meniscus. All three were surgically repaired once she returned home from Germany.

Making it worse?

She had just soared a personal-best 148 meters, suggesting she had hardly lost the top form that allowed her to beat 16-year-old rival Sara Takanashi of Japan at the world championships last February, after Takanashi had taken the overall World Cup title from her.

“It was pretty devastating, I won’t sugarcoat it,” Hendrickson said. “I was on such a good path. I was jumping so well, with some of the best jumps of my life. … That’s really hard. But you can only be sad for so long and then you have to pick yourself up and work back and fight against your odds.”
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2014 U.S. Alpine Championships returning to Squaw Valley

The U.S. Alpine Championships, which brought thousands of fans to Squaw Valley this spring, will be returning to the resort next year.

Set for March 19-23, the championships will be staged after the XXII Olympic Winter Games, which will be held Feb. 7-23 in Sochi, Russia.

Athletes expected to compete at Squaw include Julia Mancuso, who won the Olympic gold medal in the giant slalom at Turin in 2006 and claimed two silver medals at the 2010 Games in Vancouver; Ted Ligety, Lindsey Vonn, Bode Miller and Mikaela Shiffrin.

“It’s great to get to race at my home mountain, and it’s awesome to have Squaw’s support for ski racing,” Mancuso said.

“We had a hugely successful event this year, but will be offering even more programming in 2014 as we welcome our American Olympians home from Sochi with a community-wide celebration honoring athletes across the winter disciplines,” said Andy Wirth, Squaw Valley CEO and president.

Snowboarder Shaun White may give 2014 Winter Olympics an early start

By Rachel Cohen
Associated Press

Prime-time television coverage of the Winter Olympics will start a day early next year in Sochi — with Shaun White the likely star.

NBC will air events the night before the opening ceremony, the first time a U.S. broadcaster has done so. On Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014, viewers will see team figure skating, women’s freestyle moguls and White’s event, slopestyle snowboarding, for both the men and women.

“We think (it) is a great precursor to the opening ceremonies and has a large value to our distributors, to our advertisers,” NBC Sports Group Chairman Mark Lazarus said at a news conference Tuesday, a year and one day before the Sochi Olympics launch. “And we think the appetite for the fans and the consumers and the viewers will be there.”

With 12 new events for Sochi, including team figure skating and slopestyle, the International Olympic Committee needed to expand the length of the games. And since Thursdays are always a big night for TV viewership, NBC was happy to get a head start.

Some Olympic competitions have been held before the opening ceremony in the past, but this is the first time an American TV network has started its prime-time coverage early. NBC will go from 17 to 18 nights of telecasts.

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Torin Yater-Wallace returns to X Games halfpipe as ‘veteran’

Torin Yater-Wallace has the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, in his sights as he throws tricks that include the first-ever 1800 in competition. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

By Jason Blevins
The Denver Post

Torin Yater-Wallace in 2011 was the youngest athlete to medal at the Winter X Games at age 15. Two years later the halfpipe phenom is a battle-scarred, heavy-medaled veteran.

After a momentous 2012 that included the first-ever 1800 thrown in competition and gold medals at both the Europe Winter X Games and the first World Cup contest of the 2012-13 season in New Zealand, the 17-year-old is still on track for an explosive performance in halfpipe skiing’s debut at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

This week Yater-Wallace will announce a sponsorship deal with Red Bull — but he keeps the Target lid — and returns to the halfpipe for his third X Games at Aspen after surgery to repair his shoulder.

Joining him in the halfpipe this show are his best pals, 18-year-old Aspen native Alex Ferreira and Crested Butte 16-year-old Aaron Blunck. The contest will highlight the newest-school halfpipe skiers and weathered patriarchs of pipe Simon Dumont and Tanner Hall.

“We have always skied together, and they have supported me so much in the last two years, and now seeing them get this opportunity, it’s just awesome,” Yater-Wallace said of his friends during a phone interview this week. “My first X Games was terribly nerve-wracking, so I kind of know what they’ll be feeling. I think it will definitely loosen it up, just to be hanging with good friends at the pipe. It could feel like just another day, you know.”

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