Sara Takanashi calls Sarah Hendrickson icon rather than rival

Sara Takanashi

The first Olympic women’s ski jumping competition figures to be won by either Sara Takanashi or Sarah Hendrickson on Feb. 11.

Japan’s Takanashi, 17, is the reigning World Cup champion. The American Hendrickson, 19, is the reigning world champion. Hendrickson is not a sure bet to compete in Sochi due to her knee injury, but when healthy they seem to form a very competitive rivalry.

But Takanashi, who is 4-foot-11 and five inches shorter than Hendrickson, doesn’t see it that way.

“It’s not so much fun jumping without [Hendrickson],” she told Agence France-Presse. “I have learned a lot of things from her. To me, she is a sort of icon rather than a rival.

“I don’t consider myself champion.”

Hendrickson said earlier this fall she hasn’t interacted with Takanashi, but that she admires her.

The women’s ski jumping World Cup season begins with a team event in Lillehammer, Norway, on Friday. It will begin without Hendrickson, who hopes to be able to jump in January.

Ski jumping World Cup storylines