Supported By Teammates Along The Road To Recovery
Hannah Halvorsen is as strong as any athlete on the Davis U.S. Cross Country Ski Team. Her athletic potential is remarkable. But it’s not just her athleticism that shines. Her broad smile and outgoing personality are two infectious traits that make her a great teammate too.
“Hannah is probably the best friend and teammate you could ask for,” said Hailey Swirbul. “Hannah was one of the first people to send me a congratulatory message after I scored my first World Cup point (in Davos, Switzerland), and it made both of us feel mixed emotions: stoke and sadness.”
Stoke, because Hailey, Hannah, and Julia Kern - three of the four members of the bronze medal winning relay team from the 2017 Junior World Championship - are the next generation of U.S. athletes looking to follow in the successful World Cup and Olympic footsteps of Jessie Diggins, Sophie Caldwell, Kikkan Randall and Sadie Maubet Bjornsen. Sadness, because that dream is on hold after a tragic accident on a downtown Anchorage street on Nov. 1.
“I was in downtown Anchorage, in a crosswalk, and I got hit by a car,” Hannah recalled. She spent five days in the hospital when the accident left her with numerous injuries, including a head injury and significant knee damage that required surgery. “I was with a friend when the car hit me. The car hit my knee, I landed on the hood, then flew off the hood into the road and hit my head.”
Some of you know this but in November I was hit by a car while crossing the street. To summarize, I won’t be racing until next season because I have a skull fracture, bleeding and bruising in my brain, a tibia fracture, and my left MCL and PCL are torn completely and detached from the bone. Although I have experienced a fair share of sadness, frustration, and fear, I have also been overwhelmed with gratitude for life and love. Every day I have this realization that I am still alive and that I have no permanent injuries. Thank you everyone who has texted, called, sent me cards and art supplies, and let me stay in your home. I believe I can make it to the next Olympics and that’s because of you.
Initially, her recovery was challenging. As she was getting prepped for knee surgery in Vail, Colo., the doctor overseeing her head injury determined she wasn’t stable enough to undergo an operation. So back to the crutches, and California she went. A few weeks later, she returned to Vail’s Steadman Clinic on Dec. 5 and underwent a successful knee surgery performed by Dr. Hackett.
Hannah now faces a long road to recovery—a road that will go through Park City and the U.S. Ski & Snowboard’s Center of Excellence (COE) in January where she will rehab with the Team’s medical staff. While her recovery will surely feature a few bumps along the route, it is a clear pathway and she is focused on the process and the end result—getting back on snow. “There is a road now. As long as there is a road, and path to get there, I’m happy. I can do that,” she said. “I’m going to jump through every hoop I can to keep moving forward, but I know I can’t rush it.”
Hannah will spend the rest of December at home in California, enjoying the holidays with family and friends, but waking up early on the weekends to watch and cheer her teammates competing in World Cup events in Europe, and at SuperTour events in North America—teammates that she pushed to their athletic limits this past fall.
“Hannah is one of the strongest people I know,” said Sadie Maubet Bjornsen. “This summer she really broke through and learned to recognize her strengths as a ski racer. This fall as she passed me in the final stretch of a sprint time trial in Park City, I knew this girl was going to wow the world! When Hannah turns on, there is nothing in her way.”
“She made so much progress this summer and was pushing all of us to find more speed so it just breaks my heart that she won't be putting on a race bib this winter,” said Rosie Brennan. “But, I also know that she has already made a huge commitment to come back and I can't wait to watch her and help her along the journey. That is what being part of a team is all about, helping each other through these tough times and celebrating all the small victories on the road back.”
It’s that strong team bond that motivates Hannah and her teammates. After all, cross country skiing is a team sport, so the energy that shines through one teammate, can make a difference for another. For Hannah, her strength and determination to get back on snow provides motivation for her teammates as well.
“Hannah is one of the toughest people I know and the strength she has shown through all of this is truly inspiring,” Julia said. “I am always amazed by how Hannah always seems to find the positive side of things and I always seem to find her with a smile on her face, regardless of the situation. I don’t know anyone quite like Hannah, she is able to fight harder than anyone I know. She has an ability to focus and work hard when it is time, but otherwise keeps things really lighthearted and goofy, making her an amazing teammate and friend who pushes everyone around her but also is able to keep things really fun and loose. Her positivity and determination through all of this has inspired me to make the most of every day, seize every opportunity, be grateful to be a part of this supportive team and family, and to race extra hard for Hannah who is cheering us on back at home.”
“Hannah is such a ray of sunshine,” added Jessie. “She’s kind and hardworking but also has one of the funniest senses of humor I’ve ever seen. She’s a huge part of this team and I’m cheering so hard for her as she heals and begins her comeback!”
With the women’s team experiencing so much success already this season, the hardest part for Hannah and her teammates is not being able to share in the excitement together.
“That girl has one of the strongest minds I’ve ever seen, and biggest hearts,” Hailey said. “Hannah is an amazing listener, communicator, and a leader not in the sense that she charges ahead and allows you to follow, but in a way that builds others up from the ground and guides them as they grow. I’ve been lucky to learn from Hannah for the past eight years of my life, and will for many years to come! She has inspired me to be a better person and teammate, and taught me how to do just that.”
Hannah’s goal is partial weight-bearing going into early January, then beginning the process of activating her muscles during her time at the COE. While competing at the Minneapolis World Cup on March 17, 2020, was one of her biggest goals this season, she has shifted her focus cheering on her teammates, hopefully in person.
“It is something I’m considering because it was one of the biggest goals I had for the ski season,” she said. “I would definitely like to be there.”
In the meantime, she is counting her lucky stars and is 100-percent focused on rehabbing, getting back on snow and re-joining her teammates.
“I think I’d be struggling more if I had falling roller skiing and gotten hurt,” Hannah said, “but half of me is so amazed that I’m alive, I was so close to something so much worse. I was a hair away from being paralyzed, blind or dead. So I’m very thankful. I’m going to be able to ski again.
“I feel more excited and sure about being a skier and making the Olympics,” she continued. “This (accident) has really simplified things for me and put my priorities in line. I’ve realized what matters, doing what you love, with people you love, and that is skiing.”
Sugar Bowl Academy Fundraiser
Being named to the U.S. Ski Team is the result of many years of hard work, dedication, and training. These athletes represent the best in their specific sport. Hannah Halvorsen, an SBA alumni from the class of 2016, is a member of the 2019 - 2020 U.S. Cross Country Ski Team. Hannah is attending college at Alaska Pacific University and trains at Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Center. Being a member of the development team of the U.S. Ski Team can be costly and most athletes reach out to their communities and sponsors to raise money for training and travel costs.
SBSTA is excited to be hosting a fundraiser for Hannah on Saturday, December 28th at 4 p.m. at Village Hall. The fundraiser is free and open to everyone who wishes to meet Hannah and support her passion for being on the U.S. Cross Country Ski Team. There will be a silent auction, raffle, and meet and greet. We are looking forward to supporting Hannah on her path to pursuing her cross country skiing dreams.
Come hear Hannah talk about the road to the U.S. Ski Team! Hannah will be providing light refreshments during the family-friendly event.
“After getting hit by a car and losing my ski season, my winter looks drastically different than I planned,” Hannah said. “However, my determination to be the best skier I can is stronger than ever and I still have expenses in order to get on my skis as soon as possible. I welcome everyone to my fundraiser to say hello, bid on my U.S. Ski Team swag and hear about my journey and dreams. If you can’t come to my Fundraiser but want to help support my Olympic goals here is my Paypal, mailing address, and Venmo link.”