Team recovery

Sarah Hendrickson (right) and Lindsey Van are both Olympians and world champions -- and are both rehabbing ACL injuries. Courtesy Sarah Hendrickson

Shortly after their sport’s Olympic debut in Sochi, U.S. ski jumpers Sarah Hendrickson and Lindsey Van ended up on the operating table due to knee injuries. Hendrickson reflects on their experiences together, both in rehab now and when she started jumping.

Although Lindsey Van and I aren’t proud of being injured, it is always nice to have someone by your side through a hard time. Especially when it’s one of your best friends.

Lindsey and I have been close since the age of 7, when I started ski jumping and she took on the role of being my older sister. She would take me Alpine skiing, and I think that’s how I gained the confidence that has helped me with jumping because Lindsey is -- ahem -- not a slow skier. (And by “not slow” I mean very, very fast.)

At the time, we thought it would be a good idea to hit the train park, but we took too much speed going down and actually “ jumped” at the lip, which I guess is not what you’re supposed to do.

What can you expect from a ski jumper, I guess? We overshot the jump and had to crawl away from the landing area, both of us laughing our heads off and smiling. This is just one of the many adventures we’ve had.

Today we are both dealing with serious knee injuries. I am at the end of my recovery, and my recent surgery was just to clean up scar tissue from a previous injury, while Lindsey is just beginning her rehab process, but we have been helping each other stay entertained.

When I had my first surgery last August, Lindsey came over with food and helped massage my aching foot. I recently did the same for her because I remember how painful these first weeks were. We both tore an ACL, and I think it’s been important for us to talk and share our experiences through the rehab journey.

We are constantly texting each other to check in on our pain levels, and seeing each other in physical therapy. It is kind of crazy to think of all the things that we have done together throughout the years. From my first trip to Europe to us both becoming world champions (Lindsey in 2009 and me last year), we have literally been at each other’s side for the past six years.

I am very fortunate to have someone like Lindsey in my life. I remember looking up to her in every way when I started jumping, and when I started competing against her she was my biggest fan. It is scary to think what will happen to the team in the next couple of years and who will decide to proceed until Korea 2018. All I know is that Lindsey has pushed our sport to a new level and I can’t thank her enough for leading the path for me.

I was devastated when I heard she had blown out her ACL because I knew this would complicate her future with the sport. But I do know that although she can be a pain in the butt sometimes, she is one of the strongest people I have ever met, and the challenge and recovery from this injury will only add to her amazing character.