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Nerdette

Feminism, Fear, And Physics At The Winter Olympics

When Sarah Hendrickson was learning how to ski jump, women were not allowed to compete in the sport at the Winter Olympics.  

The year was 2002, she was 7, and women wouldn’t be invited to ski jump at the Games for another 12 years.

“I think that’s why female ski jumpers are really unique,” Hendrickson told Nerdette. “Because we didn’t have any other drives to keep us training. There was no drive for money, or fame, or sponsors or anything like that. It was purely you were on the ski jump because you loved it.”

At the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Hendrickson wore bib number 1, meaning she was the very first woman to compete in Olympic ski jump, an event men have participated in since 1924.

Nerdette talked with Hendrickson and luger Erin Hamlin, who won a bronze medal at the 2014 Olympics, the first singles luge medal in American history. She will look to take home the gold this month in South Korea.

Below are highlights from the conversation.

Sarah Hendrickson: Ski Jump

Sarah Hendrickson makes an attempt during the mixed normal hill ski jumping team competition at the 2017 Nordic Skiing World Championships in Lahti, Finland on Feb 26, 2017. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader).

Hendrickson: I wasn’t a huge part of the political fight — my teammates that are about 8-10 years older than me really paved the way for that. … I just have this appreciation that the fight is hard. It’s hard to make changes. But then again, you can make changes. Voices are loud. You stand together and you can break down barriers. It’s a balance that I’ve learned between those two.

When does she compete? Sunday, Feb. 11 at 5:35 a.m. Central Time.

Erin Hamlin: Luge

Erin Hamlin speeds down the course during the women's World Cup Luge event in Park City, Utah in December 2016. Hamlin came in first place. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File).

Hamlin: I definitely never had this preconceived plan or idea to be a luge athlete. I think I had seen the sport at some point in my life as I was growing up basically because I lived in upstate New York and Lake Placid wasn’t that far away. My parents were both very into winter sports and the Olympics in general so I’m sure I was exposed to it in a tiny way somehow, but never in a million years could you have said to me, “Someday you’ll be doing this.” And I would’ve not believed you.

When does she compete? Monday, Feb. 12 at 4:50 a.m. Central Time.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Click the “play” button to listen to the entire conversation, which was produced and adapted for the web by Justin Bull.

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