|Hannah Teter competes during the halfpipe finals of the 2010 U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix on Jan. 9, 2010, at Mammoth Mountain ski resort in Mammoth Lakes, Calif.|
When Hannah Teter won gold in the halfpipe at the Torino 2006 Olympic Winter Games, her life was much simpler. Snowboarding was her focus, and the teen sensation from Vermont threw herself into it totally, the way she launched into big air and 720s.
In the years since, however, Teter has broadened her horizons.
These days, Teter, 26, has her non-profit companies, Hannah’s Gold and Sweet Cheeks, which raise money for clean-water projects in Africa and for underprivileged children around the globe. She also just returned from South Korea, where she helped out with the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Pyeongchang — the site of the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.
She’s done modeling for Sports Illustrated and others, she’s hobnobbed with athletes and celebrities at special events and she’s even had her own limited edition Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor, Hannah Teter’s Maple Blondie.
Snowboarding opened doors, and she flew right through them.
“I just feel so grateful for the opportunities I’ve had,” she said this week from Aspen, Colo., where she was practicing for the Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships at Vail, Feb. 27-March 2. “I feel so grateful for the support I’ve gotten from family and friends and sponsors. That’s why I’ve been able to do all that stuff.”
But snowboarding remains the bedrock upon which the rest of her life has been built. And Teter can feel the next Winter Games edging closer.
The next Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, are less than a year away now — the Opening Ceremony is Feb. 7, 2014 — and Teter knows it’s time to start getting serious if she wants to make the U.S. team and get to the podium to add to her collection of gold from Torino and silver from Vancouver in 2010.
“The level of competition is higher than it’s ever been, for men and women, so it will take everything you’ve got and more to make the team,” Teter said. “I mean, that’s the hardest part, being one of the four (on the U.S. team) for America.”
Teter added that competition in the United States is so strong that making the U.S. Olympic Team is almost harder than competing in the Olympic Winter Games.
|Hannah Teter competes in the women's snowboard superpipe
final during Winter X Games Aspen 2013 at Buttermilk Mountain
on Jan. 26, 2013, in Aspen, Colo.
Teter has helped shine the light on her sport, and snowboarding has grown since Torino and the talent level has soared. Now, tremendous young athletes — such as 16-year-old recently crowned world champion Arielle Gold — have emerged as candidates for the U.S. team, while more veteran boarders such as Teter, Gretchen Bleiler, Kelly Clark and Elena Hight remain at the top of their games.
Each year, Teter said, the bar is raised. Teter looks around and sees Hight, for instance, landing a double backside rodeo at the recent Winter X Games in Aspen — something never before done in women’s competition — and others coming up with “these big tricks” and knows she has to work to stay with the leaders.
“I feel confident,” she said. “I definitely have some things up my sleeve that I’m working on to be in gold-medal target for next year. There’s some stuff I need to learn, so I’m working.”
What those new tricks might be, she’s not saying.
“Not yet,” she said, laughing. “Until it’s on footage and landed, I do not speak of it.”
After spending time on Aspen’s pipe this week, however, she’s thinking she might unveil something new at the U.S. Open. It’ll be a big, deep field and a good opportunity if all feels right.
“But I’ll be there regardless if I’ve got my new trick or not,” she said.
After all, there will be plenty of time to sharpen her skills once the competition heats up after this summer through the home stretch of five qualifying events to make the team for Sochi, the Winter X Games and the Dew Tour.
“Before the Olympics is always crazy,” she said.
|Hannah Teter competes in the snowboard women's halfpipe
at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games
at Cypress Snowboard & Ski-Cross Stadium on Feb. 18, 2010,
in Vancouver, Canada.
She still believes she has what it takes to make the Olympic Team, even if the competition is stiffer.
“Judges always reward amplitude (height) and who’s going huge and looks good, and I have that working for me,” she said. “Style and amplitude.”
She may no longer be that springy teenage kid at Torino, but she’s a young athlete in her prime with a lot more knowledge.
“Now I feel I’m in different shoes, maturity wise,” she said, comparing herself to Teen Teter. “And, you know, it takes me a little bit longer to get up after I fall down than when I did when I was 18, but I’m just as strong and just as focused and just a little bit more mature.
“Just a little bit,” she added, laughing.
Plus, her experiences outside the halfpipe have added to her appreciation and understanding of what she has.
At the Special Olympics in Pyeongchang, for instance, she had a chance to take part in ceremonies, snowboard with the participants, hand out medals and take part in a summit about the Special Olympics movement.
Because one of her brothers is intellectually disabled, she said, it’s something she’s long wanted to get involved in, and she helped out this past summer at an event in Vermont, too.
But her participation in the Korean event was terrific, she said. She was busy all day, every day, and enjoyed it all.
“It was so inspiring,” she said. “Makes me just want to be a better athlete.”
Over the next year, she will have plenty of chances to do just that.