Breaking my silence by facing challenges head on

By Sarah Hendrickson, 2013 World Champion

Since the beginning of my ski jumping life I have been known by the name of Giggles. Many ask how I got this nickname and I will tell you it’s not from being outgoing and bubbly like it might suggest, but rather the opposite.

Sarah Hendrickson during a press conference at the Sochi Olympic Winter Games. Photo by Sarah Brunson/USSA

Sarah Hendrickson during a press conference at the Sochi Olympic Winter Games. Photo by Sarah Brunson/USSA

When I started ski jumping at the age of 7, I was the definition of shy. You could say I was “attached to my mother’s hip” and not really in a good way. I hardly ever spoke and if you could get a sound out of me — it was just a giggle. After being around the ski jumping world for a few years, I got slightly better with talking and socializing but still far from outgoing. At the age of 10, when the coaches started to see potential in me, one coach asked how I would ever travel and compete if I couldn’t stand being away from my mom. I guess that was my breaking point. I loved ski jumping and I wanted to travel the world with Lindsey Van and the other girls to progress my passion for this amazing sport.

Ski jumping taught me to be strong. It taught me how to stand up for myself and push past the challenges that seemed impossible at the time, like becoming an Olympian. Us ski jumping girls are nothing shy of determined. We have gone through things that very few people have gone through whether it’s injuries, court cases, or lack of funding we have learned to push past the struggle in order to continue to do what we love.

It is amazing to think that 13 years ago I would follow my mom up to the ski jumps to watch my brother Nick and not say a word in the process. However today, I am the girl on the plane that starts conversations with the stranger next to me and the one that enjoys giving interviews about ski jumping purely because I like meeting and engaging with the people around me. I blame this happily and squarely on ski jumping and how it taught me to break out of my comfort zone and make my dreams become reality.

It’s a hard world out there, especially for women, but that no longer scares me it motivates me.

Women's Ski Jumping USA

Women’s Ski Jumping USA, a 501c3 nonprofit, is the primary support organization for the U.S. National Team. With the help of a small staff and lots of generous volunteers, the organization runs the U.S. women’s ski jumping program and raises the necessary funds to pay for coaching, travel, training, equipment and a junior developmental program.