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Victory Is Theirs: Lindsey Van

Lindsey Van will compete in her first Olympic ski jumping competition on Feb. 11. Harry How/Getty Images

SOCHI, Russia -- With a matter of seconds devoted to each national team's procession into the Opening Ceremony on television, Lindsey Van's odds of being on camera were slim. The world feed broadcast in the Main Press Center in the Olympic Park didn't appear to pick her out. But it's hard to imagine an athlete who felt more fulfilled in completing a personal journey.

Van, the 29-year-old ski jumping pioneer who won the 2009 world championship, spent years convinced this moment would never come. She was one of the women who lobbied hardest and loudest to be included in the Winter Games, and backed that up by agreeing to be a plaintiff in the unsuccessful lawsuit against organizers of the 2010 Vancouver Games. The effort took such a toll on her that she walked away from the sport for a season.

There's no room for sentiment in Olympic selection procedures, but Van made it easy on her many fans and admirers by qualifying by way of World Cup results. Friday, she was asked about how much history will be on her mind when she takes her first jump in Sochi. The ever-straightforward Van thought for a moment before answering. "It's hard for me to think about it that way," she said. She prefers to keep it simple, like a ski jump itself.