"Before I start, I crouch as low as possible, position my skis inside the ice tracks in the snow and balance on the middle of my feet. I want to be as low as possible--you can't jump from straight legs. By the time I reach the end of the ramp, I'll hit 55 mph."
Hendrickson, 19, has already landed almost 10,000 jumps in her life. "People ask if I freak out about flying so high, but I've done it so much, I don't get nervous anymore," says the reigning world ski jumping champion, who started alpine skiing at age 2 and launched herself off a ramp five years later. The 5-foot-4 wunderkind can soar up to 437 feet and, provided she has fully recovered from right knee surgery, is a podium contender in the women's K90 (70-meter) event, which makes its Olympic debut in Sochi. Here's how she takes flight. -- Matt McCue