Hannah Halvorsen made her appearance at the Olympics just two years after sustaining life-threatening injuries when a car hit her in an Anchorage crosswalk.
Two years ago, Hannah Halvorsen sustained life-threatening injuries when a car hit her in an Anchorage crosswalk.
On Tuesday, she raced at the Olympics in China.
Her Games are likely over after a single three-and-a-half-minute qualifying sprint race — her qualifying time wasn’t fast enough to earn a spot in the medal rounds.
But Halvorsen, 23, still seemed to arrive on a cloud when she greeted reporters after the race.
“Just to be here, to be an Olympian — that took so much,” she said. “It doesn’t feel like three minutes. It feels about 12 years. So I feel very complete.”
Halvorsen placed 43rd in the field of 90 in the skate sprint, about five seconds away from 30th place, the last qualifying position for the heats.
The race was two years and three months after the accident in Anchorage. In it, Halvorsen suffered a traumatic brain injury and a skull fracture, a broken tibia and two complete knee ligament tears; it was weeks before she could walk and a year before she could ski.
But within two months of returning to snow last season, Halvorsen, a member of the U.S. Ski Team’s development squad who trains with Alaska Pacific University, was racing on the top-level World Cup circuit in Europe. She cracked the top-30 in her second event.
Halvorsen made another step forward this winter, earning a spot in a World Cup sprint semifinal heat for the first time in her career in a race in December in Dresden, Germany. She took 7th place on the day, ahead of Jessie Diggins in 8th.
Last month, the U.S. Ski Team announced she’d earned a spot in Beijing.
The meaning of that accomplishment just two years after her injuries, Halvorsen said Tuesday, is “simple, it’s cliche: It means you can do anything if you just take one step at a time, and if you have enough people who support you.”
Halvorsen will stay in Zhangjiakou, the resort town outside Beijing where the ski races are held, through Feb. 18.
But the strength of the U.S. women’s team means it’s unlikely she’ll race again.
Halvorsen said she’ll be skiing, having fun, and trading pins in the mean time.
Her experience so far, she added, has been “perfect.”
Nat Herz is an Alaska-based journalist who moonlights for FasterSkier as an occasional reporter and podcast host. He was FasterSkier's full-time reporter in 2010 and 2011.