Park City • Jessica Jerome makes a funny face at the notion that she’s a role model. After all, she claims to be a regular girl who sits home on the couch on Saturday nights.
"I’ve gotten some letters from little girls who say we think you’re so cool. Do you like One Direction? I’m like, ‘What’s One Direction?’" the 26-year-old Jerome said after a recent training session before heading to Sochi. "It’s really humbling, especially hearing from little girls because I remember being that age and my role models in ski jumping were all men. ... Even if these girls aren’t ski jumpers, the fact that they look up to me, I’m like, ‘Really? To me?’"
A closer look
U.S. ski jumping team » Lindsey Van, Jessica Jerome, Sarah Hendrickson
Competition » Feb. 11
Jerome is one of three Park City women who make up the U.S. Olympic women’s ski jumping team, joining 19-year-old Sarah Hendrickson and 29-year-old Lindsey Van. The three women have garnered enormous media attention in the lead up to the Sochi Games, which kick off with Friday’s opening ceremony. The Washington Post, BBC, USA Today and ESPN are among the throng who have asked for time with the jumpers. The onslaught of media requests has become another obstacle for the skiers to overcome.
"I wouldn’t say ‘get to me,’ but it’s been busy," Hendrickson said. "Of course it’s all out of support, which I have to remember. It’s frustrating sometimes, but everybody’s out here to cheer us on and to be a part of this piece in history."
A reporter asks Hendrickson if a makeup artist showing up at 2 p.m. for a photo shoot will work, and she says that’s fine while she waits to answer more queries from reporters. That’s the kind of multitasking the athletes have needed when dealing with the attention while trying to properly prepare. After all, the jumpers know it’s a slippery slope when expressing any frustration with the media attention after their sport failed to be included in the 2010 Vancouver Games.
"We worked for this," Hendrickson said. "Lindsey [Van] worked hard to get our sport into the Olympics, and we just have to appreciate that. We asked for it, and now we’re getting it so we have to make it the best situation possible."
The spotlight only should intensify as the jumpers’ competition date — Feb. 11 — approaches. There are two main reasons for the attention: it’s the first time women have been allowed to jump in the Olympics and the U.S. team is expected to perform well. All three jumpers are in contention for a medal.
"I can’t be concerned with what people expect me to do or what the outside competitors are doing because that’s not what I can control," Hendrickson said. "I don’t think it’s quite hit me that it’s the first event ever and I’m on the first ever women’s jumping Olympic team."
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