Sarah Hendrickson

Sarah Hendrickson’s goal to return to ski jumping in January

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World champion ski jumper Sarah Hendrickson made her way through interviews at the U.S. Olympic media summit via cane and wheelchair Tuesday, her right knee in a massive black brace due to an Aug. 21 crash in Germany.

She underwent reconstructive knee surgery on Aug. 29 to repair a torn ACL, MCL and meniscus, and the U.S. Ski Team did not give a timetable for her return. There is doubt whether Hendrickson, 19, will be ready for the first Olympic women’s ski jumping competition Feb. 11.

“It was pretty devastating, I won’t sugarcoat it,” Hendrickson told reporters of her crash, where she jumped a personal record 148 meters off a 120-meter hill (larger than the normal women’s hills).

Hendrickson said her goal is to be back jumping by January and to walk in the opening ceremony, but she acknowledged it’s not a definite.

“Obviously I know that if my doctors tell me that I’m not ready or I don’t pass my testing results — stuff like that — and I know it’s a possibility, I won’t jump,” Hendrickson, who also had major left knee surgery in 2012, said, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

She’s spending six hours per day in physical therapy at the U.S. Ski Team’s Center of Excellence in her hometown of Park City, Utah, according to the newspaper. The knee brace comes off next week, and she’s working with a sports psychologist to calm potential fears over landing on the reconstructed knee when she comes back, according to ESPN.com.

Her fight to make it to the Olympics brings to mind the fight women’s ski jumpers waged for Olympic inclusion, finally getting into the Games in 2011.

“In the beginning, it’s very hard to stay positive,” Hendrickson said, according to the Deseret News. “Half of you, you just want to give up. But that’s against my nature.”

Hendrickson and Japan’s Sara Takanashi, 16, have a growing rivalry going. Hendrickson edged Takanashi for the World Championship on Feb. 22, but Takanashi beat out Hendrickson for the 2012-13 season World Cup title.

The U.S. Olympic team will be composed of four women. The winner at the Olympic trials from Dec. 28-29 in Park City, will get the first spot. The next three are due to go to the top three ranked women in the World Cup standings as of Jan. 19 or 20.

The team is expected to include veterans Lindsey VanJessica Jerome and Abby Hughes, the other top three U.S. women in the World Cup standings the last two seasons and the 2013 World Championships. Van and Jerome are outside medal threats.

Alissa Johnson was the only other U.S. woman to score World Cup points last season.

But the Olympic selection procedures include a discretionary selection clause that could allow Hendrickson to be picked even if she doesn’t have any World Cup points.

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French Open: Karolina Pliskova, top player sans Slam, again exits early

Karolina Pliskova
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No. 2 seed Karolina Pliskova exited yet another Grand Slam in the early stages, falling to 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia in the second round at Roland Garros on Thursday.

Ostapenko, whose only match wins at the French Open before this week came in her title run three years ago, bounced the big-serving Czech 6-4, 6-2.

Pliskova put fewer than half of her first serves in play, while Ostapenko fired 27 winners to 19 unforced errors. Pliskova was on the ropes in her first round, too, needing three sets to get past an Egyptian qualifier.

“Maybe same level as the match before, but of course [Ostapenko] is much better player,” Pliskova said. “Not much to say about this match.”

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

Later Thursday, top-ranked Novak Djokovic had a second straight win ceding just five games, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 over Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis. Djokovic undefeated in 2020 save his U.S. Open default for smacking a ball that inadvertently struck a linesperson, next gets Colombian lucky loser Daniel Elahi Galán.

Nobody else in Djokovic’s half of the draw at the start of the tournament made a French Open semifinal before.

Pliskova is the highest-ranked player of either gender (No. 4) without a Grand Slam title, yet hasn’t made it past the fourth round at a major since the 2019 Australian Open.

She’s played six Slams as a No. 1 or No. 2 seed, one shy of Caroline Wozniacki‘s total before she broke through at the 2018 Australian Open and two shy of Simona Halep‘s total before she won the 2018 French Open.

Ostapenko, meanwhile, is having a very different career.

She won the 2017 Roland Garros title, two days after turning 20, while ranked 47th. She hasn’t gotten past the third round of a major since 2018 Wimbledon, including first-round French Open exits the last two years, and is back down to No. 43 in the WTA rankings.

“It’s hard to compare with 2017. As I said, it was like three years ago, and I was much younger, and also I was fearless. Nobody knew me,” Ostapenko said. “The world doesn’t stop with winning only one Grand Slam. Of course I want to achieve more, and I want to be back in top five, top 10.”

She dropped just nine games in four sets this week.

Ostapenko gets 87th-ranked Spaniard Paula Badosa in third round. Badosa dispatched 2018 French Open runner-up Sloane Stephens 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.

MORE: Serena Williams ‘struggling to walk’

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Figure skating’s Grand Prix fields look very different this season

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Before Nathan Chen is expected to go for a historic fifth straight U.S. figure skating title in January, he will, in a first, compete against most of his top countrymen later this month.

Fields for the Grand Prix Series, figure skating’s autumn international circuit, were published Thursday. As expected, every top skater entered will compete in his or her home country, or nearest to where he or she trains, and in one of the six events.

Traditionally, skaters compete in two of the six events and are scattered among competitions in the U.S., Canada, France, Russia, China and Japan based on world rankings.

But the International Skating Union restricted travel this season due to the coronavirus pandemic. Skaters are limited to compete locally. And the Grand Prix Final at the conclusion of the Grand Prix Series has been postponed from its scheduled December setting in Beijing.

That means that Chen vies for a record-tying fourth straight Skate America crown in Las Vegas in three weeks against a field mostly made up of countrymen, including Olympic teammate Vincent Zhou and U.S. bronze medalist Tomoki Hiwatashi.

In all, there are eight U.S. men entered in Skate America, 11 women (including past national champions Bradie Tennell and Gracie Gold), six pairs and nine ice dance couples (including U.S. champions Madison Chock and Evan Bates and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue), plus some skaters from other nations who train in the U.S.

Traditionally, a country has no more than three entries per discipline at a Grand Prix event.

GRAND PRIX FIELDS: Men | Women | Pairs | Ice Dance

Sochi Olympian Jason Brown, who trains in Toronto, is entered in Skate Canada the week after Skate America.

Two-time U.S. women’s champion Alysa Liu will not be old enough for the Grand Prix Series until the 2021-22 Olympic season.

All of the reigning Olympic champions are absent from the series.

Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan previously announced he wouldn’t compete due to virus-related travel risks. Russian Alina Zagitova extended her indefinite break from competition dating to last autumn, rather choosing to participate in a skating-themed TV series.

Ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada retired. The German pairs’ team of Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot last competed in the 2018 Olympic season.

Instead, the headliners include Chen, the two-time world champion undefeated since placing fifth in PyeongChang. And a deep crop of Russian teenage women, all of course entered in the Rostelecom Cup in Moscow in November.

MORE: Brian Orser reacts to Yevgenia Medvedeva’s coaching switch

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