Wherever the teammates are, Van is the one who usually gets up early, stumbling across the darkened room she shares with them.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," she will whisper.

"Stop saying you're sorry," Jerome, the night owl, will hiss from her bed. "You're keeping me awake."

The bond among the five — who range in age from 19 to 28 — is forged of joy, frustration and frequent-flier miles. Their family has grown to include newer members such as Nina Lussi. At international competitions, they talk and laugh in the start house, just like at home.

"We enjoy being around each other," Hendrickson says.

Most of the time.

These are elite athletes, and they constantly try to outdo each other on the hill or in the gym, so nerves become frayed.

The group dynamic has been tested by Hendrickson's startling success — last season, at 18, she won nine of 13 World Cup events. Alborn says: "Everybody is jealous of Sarah, which is understandable."

Hendrickson can be demanding and irritable in ways that befit her age, and the coach has called more than one team meeting to air grievances.

"We love each other like sisters," Jerome says. "And we fight like sisters."


The morning follows a routine. Fly. Land. Repeat. Everyone tries to fit five or six jumps into two hours of practice.

Coming off the chairlift, Hughes ducks into the start house and grabs a walkie-talkie to check with Alborn on his platform halfway down the hill.

"I think it still needs to be a little lower," she says, referring to her crouch on the in-run.

"More dynamic," the coach responds. "Use all the available power."

Hughes nods and goes back outside, taking her place in line with the other women and some of the men who train in Park City.


Things changed dramatically after the discouraging court decision in Vancouver. The International Ski Federation created a World Cup circuit for female jumpers and then the International Olympic Committee added them to the Games, albeit only for the normal hill.

Men get to compete on the normal and the large, where the in-run is longer. Still, the women are happy.

"It probably took a year before I realized this was happening," Van says. "It's hard to switch your mind from a no to a yes."