Sarah Hendrickson

Sarah Hendrickson, Lindsey Van added to U.S. Olympic Ski Jumping Team

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Sarah Hendrickson reached her goal, making the first U.S. Olympic women’s ski jumping team five months after blowing out her right knee in a training crash.

Hendrickson and Lindsey Van joined Olympic Trials winner Jessica Jerome on the U.S. Olympic Team announced Wednesday. A fourth woman could be added later this week if other countries don’t fill their quotas.

Women’s ski jumping will debut at the Olympics after a decade-long fight for inclusion.

“All of these girls … deserve a medal for what they’ve done for the sport,” U.S. coach Alan Alborn said.

The men’s team is Olympic Trials winner Nick Fairall, 2010 Olympians Nick Alexander and Peter Frenette and 2006 and 2010 Olympian Anders Johnson.

Hendrickson, 19, tore the ACL, MCL and meniscus in her right knee in an Aug. 21 crash in Germany that left her in tears. She underwent surgery Aug. 29.

“When I crashed back in August, I laid at the bottom of the hill and thought everything was over,” Hendrickson said. “My dreams of being an Olympian were over.”

She gained hope after consulting with doctors in the U.S. that she could return in time for Sochi.

“I decided to put my head down and work as hard as I could every single day until this day so that I could make my dreams come true,” Hendrickson said.

She showed up to the U.S. Olympic Media Summit in early October with a massive black brace stabilizing her leg. She walked without encumbrance by the end of October and has been jumping in training the last two weeks in Utah.

“Sarah has distinguished herself over the past three seasons as one of the world’s top competitors,” U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association executive vice president Luke Bodensteiner said. “Her accident in August prevented her from competing in the World Cup, but her subsequent rehab was effective, she’s maintained a high level of fitness and her return to the jumping hill has shown us that she’s ready to compete at the top end of her sport.”

At her best, the world champion Hendrickson is considered a gold-medal threat to Japan’s Sara Takanashi, who is 17 and has won eight of nine World Cup events this season.

“Sara’s jumping at a very high level right now,” said Hendrickson, who has watched competitions despite being sidelined. “It’s really hard to say what’s going to happen [in Sochi]. I know what types of jumps I have, but I have no idea how they compare to her right now. … I’ll definitely have to show up on my best day to put a competition to her because she’s jumping very well.”

Van, 29, was one of the women who spearheaded the  fight for inclusion in the Olympics. She is the 2009 world champion.

“It’s definitely been an emotional roller coaster,” Van said of the long road to the Olympics. “I can’t say that we’ve gotten off it yet.”

There is one women’s event compared to three men’s events in Sochi, including a team event.

A U.S. men’s ski jumper hasn’t won a World Cup medal since 1991 nor placed in the top 10 of an Olympic event since 1988.

That likely won’t change in Sochi, where the medal favorites hail from Austria, Germany, Norway, Poland and Switzerland.

Here is the U.S. Olympic Ski Jumping Team:

Men
Nick Alexander
Nick Fairall
Peter Frenette
Anders Johnson

Women
Sarah Hendrickson
Jessica Jerome
Lindsey Van

Russian men’s ski jump coach against women ski jumping

Yuzuru Hanyu opens Olympic season with record score

Yuzuru Hanyu
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A sore knee didn’t hold Yuzuru Hanyu back. A record score to open his Olympic season.

The Olympic and world champion from Japan hit a pair of quadruple jumps in his short program at the Autumn Classic, a lower-level event in Montreal.

He was rewarded with 112.72 points, the highest short program score recorded under the 13-year-old judging system. Video is here.

It looked like a home competition for Hanyu.

Upon finishing, he bowed toward one set of bleachers (maybe a dozen rows) at the Sportsplexe Pierrefonds. More than two dozen Japanese flags made it hard to see most of the faces.

He bettered Javier Fernández, a two-time world champion and training partner, by 11.52 points. Fernández also landed two quadruple jumps to tally 101.2.

Full scores will be here upon the conclusion of the short program. The free skate is Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. A live stream is here.

Hanyu now owns the three highest short program scores under the 13-year-old system. The other two were set in the 2015-16 season.

Showdowns like Hanyu-Fernández are usually reserved for, at the earliest, the Grand Prix series in late October and November.

Hanyu and Fernández are very familiar with each other, having shared a coach in Canadian Brian Orser, the 1988 Olympic silver medalist, since 2012. They train in Toronto.

In that time, Hanyu became the first Japanese man to win an Olympic title (and the second teen from any nation to do it). He followed it up with world titles later in 2014 and this year.

Fernández achieved unfathomable success for a Spanish skater — world titles in 2015 and 2016, overtaking Hanyu in the free skate both times.

In PyeongChang, Hanyu can become the first man to repeat as Olympic champion since Dick Button in 1952. Fernández can become the third Spaniard to earn a Winter Olympic medal of any color in any sport, and the first since 1992.

The figure skating season continues next week with Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany, the final Olympic qualifying competition. North Korea could clinch its first spots in any sport for the Olympics in the pairs event.

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USOC letter assures Olympians about South Korea security

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The U.S. Olympic Committee’s security chief sent a letter to potential Winter Olympians saying there are no indications that recent developments between the U.S. and North Korea have compromised security in South Korea.

The letter, obtained by The Associated Press shortly after it was sent Friday, makes no suggestion that the U.S. is considering skipping the PyeongChang Winter Games for security reasons.

But Chief Security Officer Nicole Deal does write that provocations that have been volleyed between the United States and North Korea are likely to persist for the foreseeable future, and “should not be dismissed as insignificant nor feared as precursors of an inevitable conflict.”

The letter comes at the end of a week in which France’s sports minister suggested the country’s athletes would stay home if security could not be guaranteed.

The International Olympic Committee, trying to calm concerns, reiterated that in conversations with high-level officials in China and South Korea, none have expressed doubt about the Winter Games proceeding as scheduled, next February.

The USOC also sent out a public statement Friday from CEO Scott Blackmun.

“We will continue to work with our State Department and local organizers to ensure that our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe,” he said.

The letter, sent to athletes, national governing bodies and other Olympic leaders in the United States, said the USOC’s security division is operating as “business as usual for our security planning and preparations.”

Deal writes that the USOC is reviewing crisis management plans that address a range of potential scenarios “to ensure our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe.”

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