LIBEREC, Czech Republic — Live and learn. Three little words Sarah Hendrickson didn’t plan on telling herself after the individual event at the Junior World Ski Jumping Championships on Thursday. But they were never truer.
The reigning World Cup champion came into this year’s Junior Worlds confident and having fun. She was determined to complete her medal trifecta — by winning the elusive gold.
“It just wasn’t my day,” said Hendrickson, who finished sixth, with jumps of 89 and 97 meters on the K90 hill. “My first jump was awful and my second jump was good enough to be in the running, but you can’t win with one good jump.”
Japan’s Sara Takanashi won her second straight Junior Worlds gold. Italy's Evelyn Insam was 2nd and Slovenia's Katja Pozun was 3rd. U.S. jumpers Emilee Anderson finished 29th, Nina Lussi 30th, and Manon Maurer 42nd.
“Obviously, I’m not happy about today. This was a really big event for me and has always been in my dreams to win Junior Worlds,” Hendrickson said. “But it’s just one day in my career and I can’t let it get me down.”
For many athletes, placing in the top six is a dream come true. But Hendrickson’s stellar 2012 World Cup season catapulted her into a pressure cooker of immense expectations – from herself, her fans and the media.
“Sarah is a great competitor and she will grow from this experience,” said Coach Paolo Bernardi.
Hendrickson was at the top of her game, ranking first in official training earlier this week and jumping well beyond the K-point.
“I had good jumps in training on Tuesday and realized what was possible. I felt fine going into today, but then I let the pressure get to my head,” she said. “I’m just human and so I have to really learn from these ups and downs and move forward.”
Hendrickson, despite being just 18 years old, can nevertheless see the bigger picture of her experience from Thursday.
“The good thing is that our sport continues to be more and more competitive and that means you absolutely have to be ‘on’ if you want to compete and win,” she said. “It’s not easy to win in this field and that is great for our sport. We constantly push each other.”
Emily Anderson, 17, made history last year when she competed in the first ever Youth Olympic Winter Games. It marked the fist time women were allowed to ski jump in an event sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee. On Thursday – in only her second international event — she brought her A-game.
“Emilee had a really good competition. She exceeded my highest expectations and came into the competition ready and with really good technique,” Bernardi said. “She was the best surprise of the week so far.”
Anderson’s easy-going personality helped quell any nervousness she might have had going into the competition. It also didn’t hurt that she was having a blast.
“I was so excited about how I did for my first Junior World Championships. I was really happy I made it to the second round and I just thought, ‘I did it!’ ”
The team event is Saturday, when four jumpers from each country compete against each other. The U.S. will compete for the first time this year; two years ago, the event was canceled because of weather, and last year the U.S. fielded a team of just three jumpers.
Junior World Ski Jumping Championships
Liberec, Czech Republic
Normal Hill – HS100
Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013
1. Sara Takanashi, JPN, (98.5 meters, 102) 268 points
2. Evelyn Insam, ITA, (96.5, 100) 259.5
3. Katja Pozun, SLO, (94.5, 99) 253.5
6. Sarah Hendrickson, USA, (89, 97) 241
29. Emilee Anderson, USA, (74.5, 76) 149.5
30. Nina Lussi, USA, (72, 75.5) 149
42. Manon Maurer, USA, (47) 17