Hannah Teter, halfpipe snowboarder, reflects on favorite Olympic memories
At just 26 years of age, U.S. halfpipe snowboarder Hannah Teter has been an established veteran in the sport for many years. This year in Sochi, she’ll be making her third straight Olympic appearance.
Teter is already one of the most-decorated athletes in women’s snowboarding Olympic history – the only rider with a gold (Torino 2006) and a silver (Vancouver 2010) medal to her credit. She’ll look to add to her medal count as she joins Kelly Clark, Arielle Gold and Kaitlyn Farrington on the 2014 U.S. Olympic halfpipe team.
Read on as Teter shares her top memories from previous Olympic Games and recounts a few of her favorite stories involving didgeridoos and screaming from her years of traveling the world.
NBCOlympics.com: Who’s part of your tight knit crew in the world of snowboarding, and what have you been through together?
Hannah Teter: I have known the girls on the U.S. team for the last 13 years of my life. I feel like they're my sisters. I've been to the last two Olympics with Kelly [Clark], Gretchen [Bleiler] and Elena [Hight]. We’re like B.F.F.'s. – I’ve known them forever, we'll be friends forever. We're so tight and help each other out in all different areas outside of snowboarding and in snowboarding.
What's your favorite funny story that you'll all laugh about when you’re older?
I've been on so many trips with those girls. But one trip that stands out is when we were in Italy for the Olympics [in 2006], and Gretchen was super-stressed out. She was like, "Woah, what can I do to decompress?" And I was like, "You should just scream. Just release it." So we were in the locker room, and she just let out the loudest scream - just mind-frightening how loud it was. And people were outside the locker room like, "What's going on?"
Embedded owg_slideshow: Growing up Hannah Teter
So afterward, did it totally break the ice?
Yeah, it broke the ice 'cause I had let out a few screams too. And then we ended up getting first and second [place]. So obviously, screaming helps. You gotta release that tension.
Do you usually feel tension before a contest, either in the locker room or when you’re at the top before you drop in?
Yeah, usually there is a lot of tension, a lot of stress. Especially at an Olympic event or an Olympic qualifier, [which is] even more stressful 'cause you haven't made it yet. So you just have all of this stress, and you have to think of creative ways to release it. So for me, it’s stretching, it's playing the didgeridoo, it's doing creative things that just get your mind in a different place so you're not focused on the stress, but more just like, "Here I am. I'm so lucky. So many people want to be in my shoes." You just get rid of it in unique sorts of ways.
After failing to make the final round at the first two Olympic qualifiers, Teter bounced back and made the team. Clearly she can handle the pressure.
Do you actually bring your didgeridoo to the course?
I traveled with my didgeridoo for [about] six years in my board bag. It'd be one of the first things I'd put in my board bag. But now I just have so much stuff. I don't travel with it too much [anymore]. I just have it at my house.
Would you ever play it in the locker room? What kind of looks did you get?
Well, here's a funny story. I brought it to Japan, and they have those hot spring rooms that you can go down into, and you can't wear a bathing suit. So I just brought my didgeridoo, and I was playing it in there. And all the Japanese women would walk in and then immediately walk out. They were just so freaked out that I was playing a didgeridoo in the hot springs sauna. A few of my teammates were there, and they were like, "You're so weird. Why would you play that?"
Embedded owg_slideshow: Model Olympian: Hannah Teter
Is there a point where something dispels the tension and then you're all action?
I think when you're getting ready to actually take your run, some other focus comes in where [you’ve just got your] eye on the prize. It’s like a tiger seeing a gazelle. You just zoom in. You know what you want. You know what you gotta do. All the worries just dissipate, and you're really just in the moment, ready to go.
When you think back to Torino, what's the lasting moment that sticks in your head?
Torino was memorable for me because I won on my first run. You get two runs, and I had just laid it down on the first. So I was standing at the top, and they were like, "All right, you won. Now go take your second run." And I just had the most fun ever taking that victory lap and upping my score, just 'cause everyone on the talk shows was like, "You already had it after your first run. Why did you go so all out for the second one?" And I'm just like, "That's [the] sport. That’s how you keep it going. You never do a half-assed job – you always put in 110%." So that was memorable for me.
Teter won the gold at the 2006 Torino Olympics. (Photo: USA Today Sports)
And how about Vancouver?
Vancouver was really challenging because obviously it rained a lot. And they had to helicopter in snow for the halfpipe and truck it in. We got one day of practice [because] two days of practice were cancelled. So it was just this mind game: "Okay, you're at the Olympics, and you're not gonna get any practice. But you're gonna lay it down." So I did a lot of visualizing and seeing the perfect run over and over 'cause I couldn't practice, and then it ended up going that way. They say if you can see something in your mind and you train yourself that way, it's so close to doing the real thing. So I do that a lot.
How has your Olympic experience been so far?
I don't feel like a veteran 'cause I'm 26 years old. I'm still so strong and so ready to put in the work and put in the effort and progress the sport. I think I've had that since I was young, since I was 15 – just this fire to take it up a notch and take it further and go beyond the boundary line and don't hold back. That fire's still burning so strong. So going into a third Olympics, I just feel like I know so much about the game – how you play it, strategies, the mental part. It’s been a long ride on this wave, but [it’s] not even close to being over yet.
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