Park City • Now is the time to get on the Sarah Hendrickson bandwagon — six months before she becomes America’s sweetheart in the Sochi Winter Olympics.
The 19-year-old Park City native’s face will be all over network television, her name synonymous with U.S. success. You read it here first.
Hendrickson once again confirmed her place atop the women’s ski jumping world Sunday as she added a national championship to her resume.
She recorded two of the longest jumps of the day on the Utah Olympic Park’s long hill course to stand atop the podium for the first time after two previous runner-up finishes at the U.S. Ski Jumping Championships.
“Yesterday we jumped on the smaller hill and I struggled a lot — the other girls kicked my butt,” said Hendrickson, who was joined by U.S. team members Jessica Jerome and Lindsay Van. “I’m really happy. People don’t look at U.S. nationals as a hard competition, but for me it’s as hard as a World Cup. We have three girls in the top 10, and it’s never an easy day.”
Hendrickson, who won the short hill event in 2011, missed the 2012 competition as she recovered from microfracture knee surgery. Sunday, she said she is about “95 percent” healthy and is comfortable with her progress six months out from the women’s sport’s Olympic debut.
“It gives me goose bumps to think about representing the U.S. in that aspect,” Hendrickson said. “My strength is coming along and that’s very important. We have a few competitions in Europe this fall gearing up for it, and I’m ready. Full throttle until then.”
Hendrickson’s accomplishments also include nine victories in 13 events in her first World Cup season (2011) and two second-place finishes at U.S. nationals in the large hill event (2009, 2011).
Jerome, a nine-time national champion and winner of the 2012 long hill competition, said the thing that most impresses her about her teenage teammate is her poise through all the success.
“She’s kicking butt and handling it very well for your average 19-year-old,” said Jerome, who joked she was “an old person” in the sport at age 26. “She’s bringing a lot of positive exposure to the sport, and that’s a really good thing.”