Sarah Hendrickson finished sixth in defense of her ski jumping World Championship in Falun, Sweden, on Friday.
Much has changed for Hendrickson since she captured gold in 2013. She blew out her right knee in an Aug. 21, 2013, crash and rehabbed quickly to return for women’s ski jumping’s Olympic debut in Sochi, where she was the first woman to jump in the Olympics and finished 21st.
Hendrickson, 20, made her first World Cup podiums since her crash in the two events last weekend leading up to the World Championships.
Her goal in Falun was to reach the podium.
German Carina Vogt captured the World title, complementing her Olympic gold.
Hendrickson’s rival, Japan’s Sara Takanashi, finished fourth on Friday, just as she did as the favorite at the Olympics.
Jessica Jerome, who was the top U.S. finisher in Sochi in 10th place, was ninth in Falun.
Lindsey Van, the third U.S. Olympian and 2009 World champion, has retired from ski jumping, according to her Instagram.
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Sarah Hendrickson, the first woman to ski jump at an Olympics, set her sights on winning a second straight World Championship this season.
Hendrickson, 20, finished 21st at the Sochi Olympics after blowing out her right knee in an Aug. 21, 2013. She took more time for rehabilitation after Sochi.
Hendrickson finished second in her first competition since Sochi two weeks ago, beaten by Japanese rival Sara Takanashi. The World Cup season starts in December. The World Championships, held in odd-numbered years, are in February.
“It’s gonna be a tough task [defending my 2011 World title], obviously Sara is a very strong athlete but you know, I just have to focus on myself, focus on my technique and what I need to do to have good jumps,” Hendrickson said in an International Ski Federation interview. “If I have the best jumps I can have and either her or somebody else has a better jump then they deserve to win. It’s my goal this season to defend my title, but I just have to take it step by step for myself and just get back into the swing of things and not to be too tough on myself with coming back from an injury.”
Hendrickson said she still feels her knee injury sometimes, but it doesn’t restrict her training. She’s been in “complete training mode” since July. She came back too early in June and aggravated the knee.
“I’m stronger than ever now,” she told FIS. “It was hard work, but it’s nice that I’m finally past that.”
Hendrickson said Olympic teammates Lindsey Van and Jessica Jerome will jump this winter, but Van might not do so in competition. Van is also coming back from a knee injury.
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World champion Sarah Hendrickson took second to Japanese rival Sara Takanashi in her first international ski jumping competition since the Sochi Olympics on Saturday.
Hendrickson, 20, posted the third-farthest jump of the competition en route to 236 points at a Continental Cup event in Norway. Takanashi flew 102 meters on one of her two jumps, the only competitor to break 100, and easily won with 260.5.
Neither Hendrickson nor Takanashi won medals at the Sochi Olympics.
Hendrickson came back from blowing out her right knee in an Aug. 21, 2013, crash to become the first woman to jump at an Olympics. She finished 21st, then took more time for rehabilitation.
Takanashi was fourth in Sochi behind German winner Carina Vogt, who did not compete Saturday.
The U.S. Ski Jumping Championships on the normal hill are Oct. 12 in Lake Placid, N.Y.
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