Working as hard as I can

Courtesy of Sarah Hendrickson

Sarah Hendrickson has sweated through 13 weeks of intense rehab after a fall on Aug. 21 tore several ligaments in her knee.

After 13 weeks of hard training, I am finally seeing the results for which I’ve worked so hard.

It hasn’t been easy waking up every day and going to the gym for at least six hours. I’ve had to start from scratch in many ways after a fall in August tore several ligaments in my knee. The rehab has been tough, and though my actual workouts have been more like four or five hours, these have still been long days.

I often see other athletes in the morning, and then they go ski and come back and say, “Wow, Sarah, you’re still here?” I guess that sums up just how much time I’m spending at the Center of Excellence, the U.S. Ski Team’s training facility.

It all seems to be paying off, though. At my 12-week post-operation check, my doctor was very happy with how my knee and leg looked. He informed me that my MCL was now healed but my meniscus still had another month until the stitches were expected to “heal.”

Courtesy of Sarah Hendrickson

Sarah Hendrickson said running again felt "glorious." Here, she's on the AlterG treadmill, which takes weight off the lower extremities to lessen the impact.

He then reminded me that technically an ACL, the other ligament damaged in my accident, takes a full six months to repair. Obviously, we don’t have that time frame with the Olympics in February, but luckily, I don’t need to be “fully healed” to get back out there.

But the best thing he said was this: “There is absolutely nothing that will stop you from jumping in January.” He could tell I have worked my butt off to get back to my sport. I cannot put into words how much confidence this gave me, and it has motivated me to work harder to reach my goal.

I also tested my strength on the force platform, which helps my medical team assess the progress I’ve made. I knew I felt strong, but sometimes that doesn’t transfer into the correct numbers with testing. But once again, the hard work has paid off: I was back to 93 percent of my strongest numbers (which were logged this summer before I fell and was injured).

It was almost as if a weight had been lifted off my shoulders as I heard these results. Most people aren’t this strong until about six months out of surgery, and I am still on track for my goal – to compete in Sochi.

After this appointment, I was cleared to run on what’s called an AlterG treadmill -- it takes some of the body weight off your lower extremities, helping to reduce the impact. Thanks to my ultramarathoning mom, Nancy, I have grown a small passion for running and it felt glorious to do it again. I have absolutely no pain, which is also a great sign of healing.

There were days that I wanted to give up and just walk away. But those are now behind me. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and every minute of that hard work that helped me get there.

Although I have had great success up until this point, I still have one more month of hard gym training. I don’t qualify for the Olympics with strength numbers, of course -- it’s the distance I jump on the hill. So I can’t wait to be back jumping. If all goes well, I’ll be flying out there in early to mid-January!

Sarah Hendrickson, the 2013 world champion, is a member of the Visa Women’s Ski Jumping Team and Women’s Ski Jumping USA.