Five months ago, ski jumper Sarah Hendrickson crashed in a training session, tearing the ACL and MCL off the bone and damaging 80 percent of her meniscus.
No way to be back in time for the Sochi Games, right?
Turns out, Hendrickson's a very fast healer.
The 19-year-old from Park City, Utah, had surgery to repair her right knee on Aug. 29, returned to jumping on Jan. 11 and was named to the U.S. team last week as women's ski jumping makes its Olympics debut. Lindsey Van and Jessica Jerome also made the squad.
"It's a miracle, kind of," Hendrickson said of her quick return. "You never know how your body is going to react to that. Luckily, my body responded well. I was able to get strength back and everything working again."
Hendrickson, the reigning world champion, has no time to squeeze in any competitions before the Olympics. She said she's still confident. After all, she has won 13 World Cup events since 2011 and figures to be in the medal mix in Russia.
First, though, she had to get over the mental barrier of her crash, which happened in Germany when she overshot her intended landing area. On her first jump back, Hendrickson stared down the hill in Park City, trying to calm her emotions.
"Sitting there, the doubts just run through your head. Everything from, 'Do I remember how to ski jump?' to 'Is my ACL going to completely pop when I land?' " said Hendrickson, who spent nearly six hours a day in the gym getting her knee back into shape. "But I had to be confident that the hard training would pay off. I had to trust that."
She landed that first jump just fine, and her confidence was restored.
"I was like, 'Okay, now I can do my normal thing,' " she said.
NO VONN IN SOCHI: Defending downhill champion Lindsey Vonn ended any speculation that she might show up in Russia by sending a tweet from her Twitter account that read, "I won't be in Sochi but I will be rooting for Team USA all the way!"
Vonn recently had another surgery to fix her right knee. U.S. speed coach Chip White likes the idea of Vonn laying low and recuperating.
"Stay home and take care of herself," he said, "because we're looking forward to having her return."
PREPPING FOR COLD: Zipping down a slope at upward of 65 mph just adds to the chill for Alpine skiers. So they'll be prepared.
Ski racers use various methods to fight the freeze, particularly for their faces. Some use Vaseline to protect their skin from the wind. Others use athletic tape to cover up, attaching it to cheeks, chins, foreheads.
One member of the U.S. Ski Team revealed another trick: borrowing a hair dryer from the hotel and bringing it to the mountain. Plug it in, turn it on, and — voila! — extra heat.
AROUND THE RINGS: The British Olympic Association has selected 19 skiers and snowboarders for the squad, including skier Chemmy Alcott, who's returning to form after breaking her right leg during preseason training. … British bobsledder John Jackson recovered from a ruptured Achilles he suffered in July in time to make the Sochi team.