Ski Jumping

Justin Piercy - Monday Feb. 10, 2014 14:11 ET

Atsuko Tanaka, Taylor Henrich ready for Olympic liftoff

Sochi marks 1st time women will compete in Olympic ski jumping

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With women's ski jumping not approved for entry into the Vancouver Olympics, Canadian Atsuko Tanaka did jump at the Games, but as a forerunner for the men. (Getty Images)

Atsuko Tanaka and Taylor Henrich will be the first Canadian women to compete in Olympic ski jumping when the first round begins on Tuesday in Krasnaya Polyana (12:30 p.m. ET).

After years of female jumpers petitioning the International Olympic Committee to be included, the sport was added to the Olympic program in 2011 and will be contested first at the RusSki Gorski Ski Jumping Centre.

Now that the Canadians will compete, they have someone else standing in their way: gold-medal favourite, Sara Takanashi of Japan.

The Japanese phenomenon has won 10 of the 13 World Cup events this season, and is no stranger to Tanaka; the two trained together while attending college in Japan.

"I usually trained on the same hills and we had a lot of training camps together, so we're pretty close," Tanaka said.

The 22-year-old Canadian, who skied as a forerunner during the Vancouver Games, attributes Takanashi’s success to her technique.

"It just looks simple and easy,” Tanaka said of the 17-year-old.

Another favourite, Sarah Hendrickson of the United States, will be competing at the Sochi Games, but definitely not at 100 per cent.

The defending World Cup champion is five months out from knee surgery to repair torn ligaments in her knee, and because of continued pain, requested a lower gate to jump from. That means the American, who was 27th of 29 jumpers in round two of training runs, won't jump anywhere near the distance of her opponents.

At least Hendrickson was able to attend the Games.

One Canadian will be missing from action entirely: Calgary's Alexandra Pretorius. The 18-year-old was named to the Canadian squad, but was forced to withdraw on Feb. 2 after she re-injured her left knee during training in Whistler, B.C.

Pretorius tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in that knee in July during training in Courchevel, France.

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