words | Myra Carlos
If you haven’t heard of Hannah Teter before, well, prepare to be impressed - very impressed. This 30-year old Olympic champion has an amazing life story that reads like a book --- grew up the youngest in the family with four older and competitive brothers, trained to snowboard at 8, and proceeded to shine as she reaped one medal to another, and still found the time and the resources for her other passion -- charity work.
Having grown up in Vermont, winter sports came naturally to the Teter Brood. Young Hannah saw how competitive her brothers were in their sports and she embraced it, “I most definitely got my competitiveness being surrounded by boys my whole childhood who were all into sports! I would cheer them on as a toddler, and they took sports pretty seriously, so it rubbed off on me that if you’re going to do something, give it all you got! The biggest thing I learned from them was to not hold back, to jump into what you’re doing 110%.”
A school program when she was in second grade helped her find the perfect vehicle for her passion, snowboarding. Hannah narrates, “They would take us up to the mountain every other Friday. I had a little girls crew and we would rip up the mountain and loved every second of it. From these wins from childhood games, Hannah became inspired and pursued to be the best in the sport. At 15, she won the Junior World Championship in the women's halfpipe in 2002. The following year, Hannah made it to the U.S. National Team which opened the door for more honors: bronze in women's halfpipe at the Winter X Games in 2003; four World Cup halfpipe events in 2003-04; U.S. Snowboard Overall Grand Prix women's halfpipe champion in 2004; bronze in women's superpipe, World Snowboard Champions in 2005; Vans Cup Champion in 2005; bronze in superpipe, Winter X Games, 2005; won women's halfpipe at the Chevy Grand Prix, 2005; and every athletes dream -- gold in women's halfpipe in the 2006 Winter Olympics.
The road to these victories isn’t an easy path. At an early age, Hannah started doing jobs such as dishwashing and mowing lawns to afford snowboarding which could get expensive. She looks back at this time with pride though and with gratitude for the lessons she has learned, “I was happy about it the whole time because sometimes to accomplish something, you have to start at the bottom and just believe in yourself 110% while thinking strictly positive to make it to the top.”
Surprisingly, this woman who makes a living diving from the top of high powdery mountains admits to moments of fear, “I definitely get scared and nervous, butterflies filling my stomach especially when it’s blasting wind, or sub zero temperatures. To conquer the fear I just visualize myself doing exactly what it is that I want to throw down, seeing it perfect, feeling like I've already done it. That helps a lot.“
Aside from the medals, the rewards for Hannah’s hard work have been sweet -- literally. A few years ago, she received an invitation from another Vermont native, Jerry Greenfield of Ben & Jerry’s to help them create a flavor named in her honor. They came up with Teter’s Maple Blondie which is made up of maple ice cream with blonde brownie chunks and a maple caramel swirl. Ever the competitive, Hannah is proud of the flavor’s success in the market and the fact that she is the first athlete and the first girl to have a Ben & Jerry’s flavor.
To continue telling Hannah’s story, though, is to learn about how she is also a champion in helping others. Just like her passion for sports, Hannah reveals that she became hooked in helping ever since she was a little girl and she learned it from her parents. “We sponsored children from third world countries when I was real young, and I'd read the letters they'd write to us how the money we were sending was completely changing their lives. It had a huge effect on me.” It made her realize that even though she thought she was “poor” growing up, she actually had opportunities other children, especially those from other countries, did not have. Hannah also shared that her charity work actually motivates her to continue with the sport and do well as she donates her earnings to her worthy causes.
In 2008, Hannah founded Hannah’s Gold which raises money through the sale of Vermont’s maple syrup. Earnings go to villages in Kenya to build schools and dig wells to provide fresh drinking water. One of the examples of her charity work is Hannah’s Gold and Sweet Cheeks – Panties for a Purpose which offers a unique way to help. Each month a new pair of undies will be released dedicated to a different charity. Doctors Without Borders was the first recipient for their relief efforts in Haiti. That month, for every pair that is sold, five dollars will be donated to a different charity each month. Hannah is hoping to raise $100,000 by selling 20,000 pairs by May of this year. For the first month, the panties’ design had “Make Love Not War.” To find out what the next design is, the Sweet Cheeks website, where the products are also sold, has all the information.
Hannah's story is still unfolding. She doesn't see herself retiring soon, "Believe it or not I feel like I’ve been getting younger since the last Olympics I competed in. And it’s most likely from the fact that I care so much about health, and treating my body so good that it does exactly what I need it to do. The fact that I feel so good makes me want to keep going. To show people that age is all in your mind... the better you treat yourself, the more successful you can be."
See you in Pyeongchang in 2018, Hannah!