US teen soars to gold

Saturday February 23, 2013

VAL DI FIEMME, Italy -- American teenager Sarah Hendrickson won the women’s ski jumping title Friday, defeating Sara Takanashi of Japan at the Nordic skiing world championships.

The 18-year-old Hendrickson had a 347-foot, 9-inch effort on the first jump and scored a total of 253.7 points after two jumps.

Takanashi finished with 251 points, followed by Jacqueline Seifriedsberger of Austria with 237.2

"I had confidence on this hill and I knew I could have good jumps," Hendrickson said. "But standing at the top of the first round, my heart was beating and everything was shaking and I didn’t know if I could pull it off. But obviously I pulled together two good jumps."

She became the second American to win the world champions after Lindsey Van won the inaugural event in 2009 in Liberec, Czech Republic. Van finished 16th on Friday.

Defending champion Daniela Iraschko of Austria was ruled out because of an injury.

It’s a positive sign for Hendrickson ahead of 2014 Sochi Olympics, with women’s ski jumping featured for the first time.

"The first jump is really important for me mentally," she said. "If I can have a good first jump, I know I can have a good second jump. If I have a hard first jump sometimes I mentally shut down, so that was really important for me."

The 16-year-old Takanashi has won the last four World Cup events. She also captured the junior world championship title last month, where Hendrickson finished sixth.

"Sarah is my strongest rival, my favorite jumper," Takanashi said. "The world championships are very different to World Cup events. All I can do is do my best."

Hendrickson won back-to-back World Cup events on the same hill at Val di Fiemme last season, setting the hill record with a 354-3 effort.

She gave a strong effort in the second jump Friday, tying Takanashi at 337-11.

"Before the second jump it was snowing a bit up there so that blocked out the sound, which I really like," Hendrickson said. "So I had no idea how far Sara went on the second round. I could hear the crowd roar, but you never know with that. I just knew I had to do my jump and forget about the other stuff."

She dedicated the win to coach Paolo Bernardi, whose mother died this month.

"This is hometown for Paolo, where he was born and raised," Hendrickson said. "His dad basically built these ski jumps. I’ve had an amazing relationship with him over the past two years he’s been coaching us, so to share this in his hometown is awesome. No words needed to be exchanged, just all hugs and happiness."


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