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Truckee Olympian looks to redefine success in Beijing

Hannah Halvorsen on a snow slope
Courtesy of Hannah Halvorsen
Hannah Halvorsen holds a U.S. flag while at practice in Beijing, China. Halvorsen competed for Team USA in cross country skiing on Tuesday, Feb. 8.

After years of training, Hannah Halvorsen, a 23-year-old cross country skier from Truckee, finally hit the powder in her Olympic debut this month.

Despite her best efforts, she finished 43 out of 90 in the freestyle sprint, just five seconds short of 30th place, the last qualifying position.

Halvorsen was one of several area athletes competing in Beijing this month.

“You are here competing for your country, but the things that come to mind, the people that come to mind are people from that area, from the Tahoe area, ” Halvorsen said.

Hannah Halvosen practice in Beijing

Courtesy of Hannah Halvorsen

Halvorsen trains alongside other cross country skiers in Beijing as the Olympic Games were around the corner.

In 2019, Halvorsen was struck by a car and had to be hospitalized. She had a skull fracture and bleeding in her brain, among other career-threatening injuries. Since her accident, Halvorsen has viewed the Olympics as a comeback.

“I wasn’t aware of everything I had going for me until I had it taken away for a year. All I wanted was to get back and have what I had before.”

Now, the competition is a means of growing and redefining personal success, regardless of winning or losing.

“How am I going to be present, take this all in, experience this? It’s about being here and being able to live this life,” she said.

She started her career at the Sugar Bowl Ski Team and Academy, a school dedicated to training winter sport athletes from a young age. Brian Krill, the academy's director, said Halvorsen continues to carry on the school’s motto: “Grit, grace and courage. She really embodied those values.”

They both say regardless of earning medals, the athletes who are competing give hope and encourage the next generation of future local Olympians.

Andrew Méndez is a former bilingual student reporter at KUNR Public Radio.