For the first time in the history of the Winter Olympics, women will compete in ski jumping at Sochi, 90 years after their male counterparts debuted the event at the inaugural Winter Games in 1924 at Chamonix, France.
In America, all eyes will be on 19-year-old Sarah Hendrickson, as she will take part in the Olympics less than six months after tearing her ACL and MCL in a training crash. Before her injury, Hendrickson was a dominant force on the World Cup circuit, but she doesn't look the same in Sochi.
Dennis Passa of the Associated Press reported Sunday that Hendrickson's knee is giving her problems, causing her to skip a training run on Sunday while posting near dead-last finishes in every other qualification:
Hendrickson said she requested a lower gate than the other jumpers on Sunday, meaning she will have no chance to jump as far as her competitors because of her lack of speed off the ramp.
"My coach and I decided," Hendrickson said. "I still have pain in my knee. There's no need to jump too far. I don't want to sacrifice anything."
And she said her problems might be as much psychological as physical.
"Of course, I have this in the back of my head," she said. "I know I can get injured again, but I have to push it out of my head."
It's admirable that Hendrickson is even willing to compete, but don't expect her to be on the podium Tuesday afternoon. For now, outspoken Olympic women's ski jumper advocate Lindsey Van and U.S. trial winner Jessica Jerome will represent America's best chances to medal in the event.
"Being here is history," Van said, via Owen Gibson of the Guardian. "I want more people to see that women can ski jump. It's taken 90 years for us to get here."
The women will compete on the 90-meter hill and will be judged on both distance and landing. Lucky for Americans, this nighttime event in Sochi will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Network at 1:30 p.m. ET.
Here's a look at the entire field for the women's normal hill ski jump event followed by live stream and TV info and predictions for the gold, silver and bronze medals.
|1||Sarah Hendrickson||United States|
|6||Lindsey Van||United States|
|15||Jessica Jerome||United States|
|20||Helena Olsson Smeby||Norway|
Date: Tuesday, Feb. 11
Round 1: 12:30 p.m. (ET)
Final Round: 1:25 p.m. (ET)
TV (Live): NBC Sports Network, 1:30 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NBC Live Extra
Gold: Sara Takanashi, Japan
Now that Hendrickson has been slowed due to injury, this event is widely viewed as Sara Takanashi's to lose. The 17-year-old Japanese sensation is the overwhelming favorite to win the first-ever gold awarded in this event after winning 10 World Cup events this season, including two earlier this month.
The official Sochi 2014 Twitter account shared a photo of Takanashi during a training run earlier this week:
There is a very young field for the event that features many teenagers, and Takanashi appears to have the most talent of them all. On Monday, Takanashi finished in first place in two of three training runs, per another Passa report from Sochi.
"Compared to my other jumps, today were the best," she said. "The transition is the most important thing and that determines the result."
Silver: Daniela Iraschko-Stolz, Austria
If Saturday and Sunday's training runs were any indication, Daniela Iraschko-Stolz stands as Takanashi's biggest competition to win the gold medal.
The 30-year-old Austrian looked strong this weekend, winning four of the six training runs at the RusSki Gorki Jumping Center.
"To win a medal is really hard," Iraschko-Stolz said recently, via Passa. "We have only one competition, two jumps, so we have to be really strong in head and in legs. Everything is possible, it's the Olympics."
Bronze: Carina Vogt, Germany
German Carina Vogt enters the Olympics as the No. 2-rated women's ski jumper, per the latest rankings from FIS-Ski.com. Even though Takanashi is the runaway favorite and Iraschko-Stolz is looking great in training, don't count out Vogt, who leads a host of candidates to win a medal behind the top two ski jumpers.