Living up to the dream: Hannah Halvorsen reflects on 1st Olympics

Hannah Halvorsen.
U.S. Ski & Snowboard

As a youngster, local Nordic skier Hannah Halvorsen dreamed of what being an Olympian might be like.

Over the following years, she improved enough to earn a place on the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Team. When the announcement that Beijing would host the 2022 Winter Olympics, Halvorsen, 24, couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to compete and experience the culture of China.

“I always imagined, if I made the Olympics, that my family would come,” she said. “We’d go see the Great Wall and do some of that stuff.”

While her location roughly 110 miles northwest of Beijing put her right next to the Great Wall of China, Halvorsen said she was never allowed to go see it, being relegated to the athlete village or competition venues due to COVID-19 precautions.

“I was really sad about that because I love exploring new places, and I would have loved to take that train into Beijing, try different foods, walk around, and see a different country, and we weren’t able to do that all,” she said.


Even without attending opening or closing ceremonies, and without the usual fanfare of the Olympic games, Halvorsen, who finished 43rd in sprint, said this past month has been a special one.

“There’s a lot of expectations when you’re going into the Olympics because you have been looking at it your whole life,” she said. “You’ve seen it on TV. You’ve wanted to be an Olympian since you were little, and so it’s almost a little scary. Is it going to live up to these dreams? And I would say it really does. I’d say the other parts are true, too. It’s really difficult to be going to the Olympics during COVID. Everything’s locked down. You can’t go visit or explore … It’s still very special to put on a bib and race at the Olympics, but it was also a lot of paperwork, very stressful, and complicated.”

While mostly relegated to her room, Halvorsen said attending a biathlon event and the finals of aerials were among the highlights of her games.

“(Aerials) was unreal,” said Halvorsen. “Really cool in person.”

She added that missing out on experiencing Chinese culture was one of the biggest let downs of the games, but said the little interactions she had with staff and others were always positive.

“They were very friendly, so were all of the Chinese staff and volunteers,” added Halvorsen. “We also got to try a lot of their food and they gave us each a present for Chinese New Years.”

Halvorsen said she was also taken back by the celebratory atmosphere of the games and enjoyed meeting athletes from countries like Brazil and the Philippines, which are not usually competing at World Cup events.

“I thought I had some understanding of what it would be like, but it’s very different because it’s more celebratory,” said Halvorsen. “It’s more festive. There’s more of an appreciation and acknowledgment of coming together. People are trading pins and wanting to meet each other, they’re trading gear. That part was really cool.”

Going forward, Halvorsen plans on graduating this spring from Alaska Pacific University with a double major in business and psychology. Her plans on whether to continue her ski career remain in the air.

“At this point, I’m not sure,” she said. “There’s an opportunity for a big transition. I’ve been skiing for so much of my life and that’s really been a positive guiding force, but all of a sudden I have room to live different places, do different things. I’m not really sure yet, but I am looking forward to having a little more autonomy.”

Justin Scacco is a staff writer with the Sierra Sun. He can be reached at

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