Sometimes just getting to the starting line is a victory in and of itself. That sentiment couldn’t be more accurate for anyone other than U.S. cross-country skier Hannah Halvorsen.

The California native specializes in cross-country skiing. By 12, she knew she wanted to compete at the Olympics someday.

In 2019, that goal was almost lost forever. She was crossing the street in Anchorage, Alaska, when a jeep struck her. She doesn’t remember the accident or most of what took place over the following 10 days. She suffered a traumatic brain injury, a fractured skull, a broken leg and maybe most threatening to her skiing career, a serious knee injury that left her unable to walk.

“I was a hair away from being paralyzed, blind or dead,” Halvorsen said in December 2019, according to U.S. Ski and Snowboard. “I’ve realized what matters, doing what you love, with people you love, and that is skiing.”

The then 21-year-old had an uphill battle. Originally, she couldn’t even jog for 30 seconds, let alone jump on skis. She’d be back on skis 11 months after the accident, in December 2020. Just a year after that, she recorded a personal best in the World Cup freestyle sprint.

While she had to take it step by step, she made it to the 2022 Winter Games, and competed in the women’s individual sprint on Tuesday. While Halvorsen did not advance beyond the qualifying round, just stepping to the starting line is a victory she can truly celebrate.