America’s Lindsey Van (1st place): So it has been a little over a week since I won the World Championships. I think it is starting to set in, but I have been so busy that it is hard to tell. I went home for four days, which was awesome. I missed home a lot after being in the E block for three weeks. Not my favorite place in the world, and the food sucked. It snowed the whole time, so I was ready to see the sun again. My body was drained—so tired physically and mentally. It was hard to digest anything that had happened. I had barely enough energy to make it home. Everything felt so difficult to do, and I felt like I weighed 100kg. I did have a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction, which allowed for some relaxation of the mind and body. With my body refueled and re-energized. I was able to think a bit more clearly about what had just happened. I had to watch the video to refresh my memory of the feelings I was experiencing at the time.
I remember my second jump and the sense of relief coming over the knoll—I finally had a good jump. On that jump, I was focused on my inrun position because I know that is the base. I got off the bar and realized my goggles were fogged in the upper 25% of the lens. This is the only part of the lens I look through in the inrun. I recall it not phasing me too much. I knew the feelings I was looking for and tried to focus on those. Coming through the radius I was able to feel the pressure of the curve on my foot. I knew when it released, I just had to move—more of a muscle memory thing than a conscious decision. Coming over the knoll, I knew this was going to be a good jump and I just had to relax and let it fly. I landed in a telemark, and immediately felt a rush. It was a rush like I had never felt before. It was fast and overtook my body before I had any idea what was going on. Without even thinking, I threw my arms up in celebration. At this point I felt like a kid jumping up and down in excitement, and wasn’t thinking of any of my surroundings. I celebrated in a haze for a few seconds and then began to realize where I was and what I was doing. For those few seconds I was alone in my own happiness, and it poured out. When I looked at the scoreboard, I saw the distance of my jump of 97.5m. I knew this was a good jump with good scores and would be hard to beat, but there were still three competitors left at the top of the hill. I was psyched and continued to act like a child. I had a grin on my face that could only be placed there by pure enjoyment and happiness.
I anxiously awaited the next three jumpers. Honestly, I don’t remember much of this time. It is all a blur. I don’t know if it happened fast or slow, but I remember being in total amazement as I looked at the scoreboard. Each time a jumper went I saw my name at the top of the list. After Ulrike jumped, it seemed as the scores came up in slow motion. Next to her name I saw 2nd, which meant that I won. Another rush, and I began to shake. I had been shaking the whole time, but now it had become more intense. I celebrated more without even knowing what I was doing. My body took over as my mind went somewhere else. It was a surprise to me. I knew it was possible, but I had tried not to think of this point in case it didn’t happen. I thought I would have been more consciously aware, but I went to lala land. I had to come back as they put the World Champion bib on me. As they did this, I suddenly heard more noise all around me, and I put up my arms again. Sagen gave me a huge hug and said “you f**king did it, you are the world champion.” Hearing this from one of my best friends and fiercest competitors was awesome. She had a bronze medal and looked truly happy. It was awesome to share this moment with her, and we were really happy for each other. At the same time there was a sense of relief knowing we had worked so hard together in the sport for this moment, and it was finally over. As we paraded around the outrun, I waved about an American flag. I was honored to have it, and so many emotions were running through my blood. I was looking at all my competitors, our American fan base, my team, coaches, and tried to take it all in. I posed for pictures, hugged everybody and tried to recall what had just happened. We did the flower ceremony at the hill. I remember looking at my longtime coach Larry Stone and seeing the joy on his face, and some tears in his eyes. He had been coaching me since I was 9, so it meant a lot for me to have him there at that moment. I saw my U.S. Ski Team Coach Kjell also looking like a little kid who couldn’t wipe the grin off his face. He just kept nodding at me and pointing. I went around the crowd and picked out the faces I knew. I felt this connection to so many of them, and wanted to share this moment with all of them. I was proud I could do this for my country, my team, and especially my sport. The energy I was receiving from the crowd was so intense and empowering. I felt some tears coming, but they never came. I think I was smiling too hard, which blocked off the tear ducts.
After the ceremony. the media circus began. I also don’t remember too much of this. I recall shuffling from one camera to the next, and not being able to make much sense of anything. Many of the questions were the same, and I just kept saying how happy I was for this moment and the sport. I must have been shuffled around for an hour or so. Finally I was able to have contact with all those familiar faces. It was an emotional roller coaster with each of them. Each person reminded me of something special and different. I shared many things with these people, but was able to share this experience with all of them. It has been a long road to this point, and so many people had supported me throughout. The energy I felt from these people was like nothing I had ever experienced, and it lit a flame within my heart. When I had five minutes alone in the shower I tried to let it sink it, but it wasn’t happening. Still there was too much chaos in my mind for me to focus on what had happened. I was satisfied, and I knew that. I went on the Internet to check my email and Facebook. I had many positive and supportive messages from people from all over the world. Apparently people had been paying some attention to the sport, and that is what I was hoping for. I was more content knowing the sport was getting recognition instead of an individual athlete. That is the part that hit me the most, knowing that this historical event was watched, and this event put women’s ski jumping on the map. It felt like people had finally realized that we existed and our sport didn’t start yesterday. This was a big win for all the women who had worked so hard to get recognition for the sport over the last 15 years. The athletes had to work together for this, and it felt more like a family and not as competitive. It was great for our team, all the ladies who had made it this far, and the sport itself can now move one step forward. At the medals ceremony it was much of the same emotional roller coaster. I was able to talk more with the other athletes about what we had just done. It was a great sense on relief for all of us, and now it was time to celebrate. As I stood on the podium, I felt so happy and proud that I could be standing at the top. It’s something you dream of, but it unravels differently than the dream—this time it was real. While listening to the national anthem, I was looking around the crowd to see all the faces—faces of support, satisfaction, and joy for the sport. I felt like I was going to cry, because I saw others cry. I was too happy to cry, the tears just never came. Sagen, Ulrike, and I posed for pictures with our medals and trophies together, all of us still in amazement, and we tried to enjoy the moment. So many emotions were coming and going and I was trying to hang on to each and every one of them. It was a high that I had never experienced, and I will never forget.
Germany’s Ulrike Graessler (2nd place): During the first official training, I was a little bit nervous. I was mostly nervous about what people would think about women’s ski jumping as a whole since a 12-year-old Czech girl fell bad that day so training was canceled. On Wednesday, I was happy that we got an official jump after waiting such a long time because of weather. I feel that it is very hard to get on the podium, because the conditions are changing all time and it’s difficult to say who is getting the best conditions. On Thursday, during the last official training I was not so good. The jumps themselves were good, but not the results. I was in the top 6, but never in the top 3, and I thinking, “Oh shit.” My coaches told me that I can do this, and it’s possible, but tomorrow is a new day, and anything can happen. I was very nervous, but as soon as I sat on the bar in the first round it was all normal and I had tunnel vision. I didn’t feel the pressure in the first round. After the jump, I felt it was my best jump, and I saw that I was first by 8 points, but I didn’t expect it. Then I think, “Oh no, I am first after the 1st round,” so I was a bit more nervous for the 2nd round. My mother was so nervous that she couldn’t watch. My mother told me she cried, because she knew what I had to do in the 2nd round. I sat on the bar again, but I couldn’t hear the distance of the jumpers before. I was happy not to hear this, because it would have made me more nervous. I sat on the bar waiting three or four seconds for the green light, and I thought nothing about what was happening. As I landed, I was pretty sure that it was far enough for a medal, but was hoping it was enough for the win. I was 2nd and I was very happy for that, but as soon as that happened the media was all over. I was looking for Anette and Lindsey, but I couldn’t find them to congratulate them. I remember interview, interview, interview the whole time, and I just wanted to go and see my parents. The flower ceremony went fast like a movie. It was strange, but I felt happy. I was very happy with the competition, because I won a silver medal, although the media was asking if I was unhappy because I lost the gold. “I am happy because I have two good jumps, and that is the best that I can do this day.” I was the first that won a silver medal for Germany. It was important for me because we only have one chance, and the other sports have many more chances for medals. It was hard for me to realize that these were the first medals for our sport. It still hasn’t hit me, but I hope this medal is important to our federation and our sport. It was great to see Anette and Lindsey coming away with medals. These two and I have worked hard to put women’s ski jumping on the map. I felt relieved that it was these three on the podium and we could share this experience together.
Norway’s Anette Sagen (3rd place): The entire day was going so fast, and I was in a rush until I landed after the 2nd jump. I looked up at the scoreboard and I realized I was No. 2 after the 2nd round, and I realized I would be on the podium. I looked up once more and saw that Lindsey was before me, and then I went out to meet my media people in the exit gate, and I shake Lindsey’s hand briefly and start on some interviews. I stopped to watch Ulrike jump, and saw that Lindsey won. My first thought was “Lindsey did it, she f**ing won, she is the World Champion.” And then I took the bronze medal!!! I start jumping around and suddenly I found Lindsey and started jumping around with her and congratulating her. From then on until the flower ceremony, it was all a blur and I have no idea what I said at the time. I know that NRK put a microphone on me for the flower ceremony, and later I became aware that I said “Good f**king job Lindsey” and so they translated it and played it over and over again. During the ceremony, I felt we were all sharing this equally and all our competitors were cheering for us, which was an amazing feeling. After the ceremony, it was so busy. We had to take pictures with the medals even though we hadn’t gotten them yet. We were rushed off to a press conference and doping control. All of that went by in one breath and it was all over! It was fun, amazing, and totally exhausting, but when I got back to my room I laid down in my bed and almost immediately fell asleep. When I woke up, I almost forgot about the entire World Championship, and then the Norwegian media guy came into the room and reminded me of a few more interviews to be done. I remembered it all, and if possible, was even more happy than I was before. It was time for the medal ceremony in the medal plaza in Liberec. For me it was just special to show up some place to receive a medal with the other girls getting medals—it was a big moment. I was the 1st one to go on the podium and it felt so huge for me, to go up that step and receive the applause from all those people. It made me feel really special, special in a good way. It felt also very special for me to see the other two girls get their medals, and to hear the American national anthem that I know so well. I can actually whistle it. We watched the flags of the podium go up and the fireworks, and there was a lot of media taking account of the moment and we all felt like superstars. Luckily that passes, and we realize that we are all just human beings. Today, over a week after the World Championships, being in Japan, and seeing they have over 20 women participating in the 21st Yamagata Games makes me realize our battle hasn’t been forgotten. They are participating over 20 women from Japan this week, and only 11 girls outside of Japan are taking part in this competition. However, we have come a long way since our beginning and we can make it together!