Dec 29, 2013, 3:03 PM EDT
Women’s ski jumpers will fly at the Olympics for the first time in Sochi. Jessica Jerome assured she will be there by winning the U.S. Olympic Trials on Sunday.
Jerome, 26, scored 248.5 points over two jumps at the 2002 Olympic jumping venue in her hometown of Park City, Utah. She beat 2009 world champion Lindsey Van by two points.
“This is huge,” Jerome said on NBC. “I can’t believe that I’ve already earned my spot. It’s amazing.”
Nick Fairall, 24 and of Andover, N.H., won the men’s event to make his first Olympic team after just missing the 2010 Vancouver Games. He scored 253.5 points, topping two-time Olympian Anders Johnson.
Only the winners clinched Olympic berths Sunday. The rest of the U.S. Olympic Ski Jumping Teams (up to four men and four women total) are expected to be named by Jan. 22.
The International Olympic Committee added one individual women’s ski jumping event into the Olympics in 2011 after a decade-long fight for inclusion from the likes of Women’s Ski Jumping USA. The men have three Olympic events, two individual competitions and a team jump.
Reigning world champion Sarah Hendrickson remains out after tearing the ACL, MCL and meniscus in her right knee in an Aug. 21 crash. Hendrickson, 19, expects to return to jumping on snow in about two weeks and compete in World Cup events later in January.
Hendrickson is expected to be placed on the Olympic Team.
“I’m trying not to think about that,” Hendrickson said on NBC when asked about her confidence of being part of the team in Sochi. “I’m just focusing on my training and what I have to do on the hill when I get back to jumping again.”
If healthy, Hendrickson is a co-favorite for Olympic gold with Japan’s Sara Takanashi, who is 17, undefeated in three World Cups this season and not quite 5 feet tall.
A U.S. men’s ski jumper hasn’t won a World Cup medal since 1991 nor placed in the top 10 of an Olympic event since 1988.
That likely won’t change in Sochi, where the medal favorites hail from Austria, Germany, Norway, Poland and Switzerland.
“We definitely have to stay positive, keep focused on our goals,” Fairall said on NBC. “Ultimate goal is a gold medal, of course. Definitely stay focused, keep working hard, keep your head up no matter what.”
The crowd in Park City was reportedly the largest since the 2002 Olympics. That caused transportation problems getting to the venue.
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