Lindsey Van of the U.S. Women’s Ski Jumping Team returned to the Continental Cup the weekend of Sept. 11-12 in Lillehammer, Norway, resuming high-level international competition after taking last season off to rest and recharge after a tumultuous yet exciting couple of years.
Van made history in 2009, becoming the first-ever World Champion in women’s ski jumping. She was also a leader in the fight to include women’s ski jumping in the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, joining teammate Jessica Jerome and 13 other female jumpers from around the world in a lawsuit challenging the discipline’s omission from the Games. Van more often found herself in front of reporter’s microphones and television cameras than on the jump hill as the battle for Olympic inclusion stretched to the highest levels of the Canadian court system. The women were still not allowed to jump in the 2010 Games and the focus has turned toward the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia.
Van said she’s eager to put politics aside for the time being and simply focus on flying again. She recently talked about her return to the sport prior to the weekend competitions in Lillehammer:
Q: With the Vancouver Olympics in the past, has it been refreshing to simply focus on jumping again?
Van: Ski jumping is a whole new thing for me without the political aspect now. I can focus on jumping and only jumping. It feels like it did when I was a kid, the way it should be. I sure do enjoy it a lot more.
Q: Describe your emotions as you get back to competition? Excited, nervous, eager to gauge your fitness level?
Van: I am excited to compete again for the first time in over a year. Honestly, it doesn’t feel like it has been that long. The year off was great, and it feels good to be excited about ski jumping again.
Q: You’ve had a lot of time off to think about doing other things. Is it hard to come back?
Van: I needed that break for my brain, and my body. I did a lot of skiing, and was able to have a different perspective on ski jumping. I went to school, and worked during my time off so that was good, too. I am now back on track with school and look forward to continuing my education in the future. Coming back to ski jumping was not hard. It was a much easier choice having had a different perspective on it. The idea of ski jumping was simple: I am back because it’s fun, I love the sport, and that is the only reason. I had to rediscover my motivation, but taking away the political aspect made that pretty easy.
Q: How focused are you on getting to Oslo and defending your world championship?
Van: I am excited the Worlds are there, but I wouldn’t say it’s at the top of my list to go there and defend that title. I just want to jump far, and have fun. I have no expectations, except to make it fun. For me it has to be that way, I can’t have these high expectations, it just does not work for me. I jump because it’s fun to fly, and I am going to keep it simple.
Q: What are your immediate goals for the competitions in September?
Van: My goals for September are just to get back into the competition world. I don’t have any expectations. It is what it is, and if I make expectations or high goals, then it feels more like a job to me. The simplified version seems to fit me right now. There is no rush to get back to that same mindset that I had before. I found it very stressful, and I don’t want to feel that. I want to enjoy myself, and keep it fun.