ZHANGJIAKOU, China: Just over two years after she was struck by a car Hannah Halvorsen has battled her way back from a broken leg and a traumatic brain injury to make the United States cross-country ski team at the Beijing Games.
In November 2019 the sprint specialist was crossing the street in Anchorage, Alaska when she was struck by a car, fracturing her skull and tibia, tearing knee ligaments and leaving her with a traumatic brain injury.
"I wasn't even able to have surgery for a month and a half because of all the bleeding in my brain. After that, there were huge, huge windows of very small growth, really training how to walk again," the 23-year-old said.
"It was about half a year until I could even start to run for 30 seconds at a time."
As a child, she was so active she thought the word "bored" meant "tired", as she couldn't envisage herself not having anything to do.
That energy and attitude coupled with her psychology studies at Alaska Pacific University sustained her on the hard road back to recovery from her injuries.
"Where I see that come together is when you are faced with something that seems absolutely impossible and overwhelming," she explained.
"How am I going to get back into this sport, particularly at the highest level, and compete against people who haven't gone through a big accident when I have?"
She returned to competing in December 2020 and her performances since have helped her achieve the dream of becoming an Olympian that she has had since she was 12 years old.
"I thought that, if I got to the Olympics, it would be this happy ending and everything would be better. But the reality is, I still have a lot of challenges," she said.
Though profoundly affected by the incident and still hampered by her brain injury, Halvorsen's opinion is that it has improved her as an athlete.
"I think that I could have got to this point without the accident but it maybe would have taken me 10 years of ski racing," she said.
"I was forced to find that maturity right away or I wasn't going to make it ... I'm becoming very conscientious about where I put my energy, and I think that has made me a better ski racer."
Halvorsen will be hoping to make her Olympic debut in Tuesday's sprint competition.