Fulfilling a dream
After it was over—her Olympics, and possibly her Olympic career—Sarah Hendrickson was asked what made it worth it. It was like asking a beachgoer what was so great about the sun. "I was 19th place, and I think I'm smiling more than some of the people who beat me," she said. "That's what I do really well. We're always smiling and having fun. I mean, we're ski jumping. This is supposed to be fun. And it's the Olympics. There is nothing better than that."
Hendrickson is 23. She was once the best female ski jumper in the world. Then she wrecked her right knee six months before the Sochi Games. She competed anyway, going from a medal favorite to a 21st-place finish. She has had six knee surgeries in all, and she arrived in PyeongChang as just another name on the start list with no real shot at a medal.
When Hendrickson took up ski jumping, it wasn't even an Olympic sport for women. She pushed to change that. (It was added in 2014.) If she retires, then at least she got to do what was once out of reach and to put it within the grasp of others. "The girls who look up at the jump and say, 'That's what I want to do,' those are the ones you have to pay attention to."