One of the Truckee-Tahoe area’s top cross-country skiers made her return to competitive racing on Saturday, competing for the first time being hit by a vehicle in November 2019.
Last year, Hannah Halvorsen, 22, was planning on an evening out in Anchorage, Alaska to celebrate her birthday. Instead, as Halvorsen and her boyfriend made their way across a one-way street, a Jeep Cherokee swung a left and struck the Alaska Pacific University skier.
During the accident, Halvorsen smashed her left knee on the hood of the car, fracturing her tibia and tearing and detaching her MCL and PCL. More seriously, Halvorsen came off the Jeep and hit her head on the concrete. Unconscious and with blood pooling around, she was taken the hospital where she would spend the next five days recovering from bleeding and bruising in her brain, along with her other injuries.
“I was in a lot of pain,” said Halvorsen in a May interview with the Sierra Sun, adding that she doesn’t remember much of the incident. “I’ve been filled in on what happened. I haven’t had anything come back. It feels like a dream.”
The accident would rob Halvorsen of her junior year of cross-country competition, erasing what would have been a promising season of collegiate and U.S. Ski Team racing.
Slowly but surely Halvorsen began down the long road of recovery, working with trainers to rebuild her strength with an eye toward the 2020-21 season. As the months drug on she’d bounce around from different trainers and doctors, navigating the outbreak of COVID-19. Soon, major breakthroughs like getting off crutches and walking without a brace were checked off. As her body began to heal, Halvorsen’s athletic fire began to be stoked and a new sense of appreciation for the sport took hold.
“It definitely made me realize that I really do want to ski,” she said. “It almost just felt like this was my life, that is was normal. It’s actually really special. I miss it a lot.”
That yearning to return to skiing was finally quenched in October when Halvorsen returned to the snow for the first time in nearly a year.
“I don’t need to say much more than thank you to everyone, who has helped me get back,” posted Halvorsen to her Instagram page. “I am so happy.”
During the past several weeks Halvorsen continued progressing, practicing with teammates and participating in time trials in Anchorage in preparation to open the season in Davos, Switzerland.
“Just to be here and be able to put on a bib and step on the start line is a massive accomplishment,” Halvorsen told U.S. Ski & Snowboard. “I have worked hard to get here, but certainly not on my own as I have been supported by the entire Nordic community. As I head into this race, I feel a lot of things, but most powerfully, I feel happy, proud, and grateful.”
On Saturday, Halvorsen completed her comeback, racing at the World Cup event in Davos, Switzerland. Halvorsen finished the sprint race in 38th out of 51 skiers.
Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at email@example.com or 530-550-2643.