Sarah Hendrickson Is Born to Fly

Meet the 19-year-old who's about to shatter the Winter Olympics' coldest glass ceiling

Sarah Hendrickson, the reigning ski-jumping world champion, has heard all the feeble excuses. She and her teammates learned to laugh at the most twisted and implausible ones. What else could they do? Starting in 1998, female ski jumpers petitioned for Olympic inclusion. Again and again, they were turned down. There just aren't enough women competing, went one trope. It is traditionally a men's sport, went another. A decade ago, the president of skiing's global governing body told an interviewer that women shouldn't jump because it seemed "not to be appropriate for ladies from a medical point of view." Says Hendrickson, 19: "I've heard things about how the sport would make our ovaries fall out. We would joke like, if someone jumped far, 'Oh, you can't have babies.'"

In a milestone for Olympic gender equity, women's ski jumping will finally make its debut during the Sochi Games, which begin Feb. 6. Over the past dozen years, combat sports like women's wrestling and boxing have been added to the Olympic program, but ski jumping—a graceful event in which competitors take almost serene flight—couldn't break the glass ceiling. (Nordic combined, a Winter Olympic sport that mixes cross-country skiing and ski jumping, remains all-male.)

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