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Injuries cost two US skiers their first shot at Olympic glory but led them to each other

David Wharton, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Olympics

"We kind of believe the hardest battles are for the strongest people," Hendrickson says. "You put your head down and you keep going."

At the Summer Olympics, sprinters might tear a hamstring and basketball players occasionally twist their ankles. The Winter Games are different.

Downhill skiers and bobsledders risk their lives hurtling down the course. Snowboarders and ski jumpers launch themselves far above the cold, hard ground.

Serious injuries are common. So are tales of arduous rehabilitation.

"Recovery is not only physical, but social and emotional as well," says Alex Cohen, a U.S. Olympic Committee psychologist. "There's doubt -- am I going to be the same athlete I was before?"

Before the 2014 Winter Games, Hendrickson was the biggest name in her nascent sport, having burst onto the scene as a teenager with a world championship and a World Cup season title.

 

Her talent was matched by a bright smile. Great things were expected of the Utah native.

Then came a training crash and torn knee ligaments. She limped onto the hill in Sochi and, had the honor of being the first woman jumper in an Olympic sport that previously had been limited to men.

It was a historic moment, but, Hendrickson says, "with my injury, it was really frustrating."

Yater-Wallace, who comes from a renowned surfing family in Southern California but grew up in Aspen, Colo., had a similar story.

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