Q&A with U.S. Snowboarder Hannah Teter

Hannah Teter

American Hannah Teter won the silver medal in the women's halfpipe on Thursday. (Luke Winn/SI)

VANCOUVER — Hannah Teter is sitting in the lobby of the Sutton Place Hotel, watching highlights of Olympic ice dancing on a big-screen TV and getting slightly disappointed. “They don’t really do any jumps in this kind of skating,” she says. “I love seeing the guys’ jumps. Doing quadruple spins in the air? And landing on skates? That is impressive.” As America’s top female in snowboard halfpipe, she is inclined to appreciate feats of aerial athleticism. But attending the men’s free skate, in which Russia’s Evgeni Pluschenko landed his quads, was not an option; it fell on the same night that Teter was winning the second Olympic medal of her career. Four days after taking silver at Cypress Mountain, the 23-year-old from Vermont took time for a Q&A with SI.com.

Luke Winn: You won gold in Torino, silver in Vancouver — how did the experience change this time, in terms of what happened after the competition is over?

Hannah Teter: This one is a lot more mellow. There’s a big difference if you win gold. Everybody wants you. If you get silver or bronze, then maybe you go on this, maybe you go on that, but it’s not all-day-long sort of stuff. I mean, I was up until 6 a.m. [on the night after the halfpipe], we did the press conference stuff, and then the Today Show at 3 a.m., which sucked. But after Torino it was appearances for maybe two straight weeks. That was a lot. I almost wish I had silver then, because it was so crazy.

LW: Wait, so you’re happier with silver than gold?

HT: I’m completely satisfied with silver, but I definitely would rather have won gold again. Just because your platform for anything is bigger if you have back-to-back golds.

Hannah Teter

Teter finished second behind Aussie Torah Bright. (Getty)

LW: And you’ve used this platform to do a lot of charity work. You’ve been donating all your competition money. How much will you get for the silver, and where will it go?

HT: I think it’s maybe 10 or 15 thousand. We’re giving that to Haiti. I’m giving all my contest winnings this year to Haiti, and then I have the maple syrup, Hannah’s Gold, and everyting from that goes to a village [Kirindon] in Kenya.

LW: As an Olympic athlete, is it safe to eat maple syrup on the day of a competition?

HT: I usually do a smoothie in the morning and use [the syrup] as a sweetener. It’s pretty legit — and organic, as you can imagine. My mom brought a bunch of Hannah’s Gold to the house we were staying at with my whole family near Cypress.

LW: So how much money, in total, have you given away to charity?

HT: With the money I’ve given personally from contests, and the maple syrup, and other people donating to the cause, it’s around 200 thousand.

LW: You’ve said that Shaun White — who’s the richest Winter Olympian, bringing more than $8 million last year — needs to start a charity.

HT: How cool would that be? Shaun’s such an amazing candidate and so many kids look up to him, so I think it would be huge for him to start something. I haven’t quite talked to him about that yet, because there’s so much going on this year and I don’t think he was in the right space for it. But now, after he’s got another gold, what better time to do something?

LW: What would you advise him to do?

HT: I would see if there was any particular thing he was passionate about, whether it be environmental or animal causes, or people in third-world countries dying of diseases or hunger. I’d just see if there’s a passion that’s hiding inside him that he hasn’t let blossom yet, and try to search that out.

He definitely has the loot to do it. And hopefully he’s not a little stingy guy, because he could be. A lot of people are stingy with their money, or put it into cars or houses or material things that don’t matter.

LW: What did you think about what happened with Scotty Lago, with him getting sent home [or "volunteering" to go home, as was initially reported] after those photos went up on TMZ? It seemed like a case of snowboarding culture clashing with Olympic culture …

HT: You’ve got all these super straight-edge fundamentalists running the Olympics, so you’ve really gotta play their game. And I think Scotty forgot that after a couple of drinks.

We had a five-hour presentation coming into the Olympics about how to be a good Olympian — what not to do, how to represent the U.S. in the right way — and it seems like a bunch of B.S., but they really do take it seriously, and they want us to. I was kind of snoring through the whole thing.

LW: What was the reaction to the Scotty thing among other snowboarders?

HT: I think everyone was basically like, “That’s ridiculous.” Those photos aren’t even bad — I think they just got mad because he was wearing an Olympic t-shirt. It sucks for him, because it was really blown out of proportion. In the media it was like, “risque photos!” And then you see them and you’re like, “Wait a second, he’s dressed! And there’s just a girl standing next to him.” It was pretty stupid.

LW: I imagine snowboarding at the Olympics is incredibly different than, say, snowboarding at the X-Games or some other normal competition. What sorts of things change?

HT: The whole security thing does — you’ve gotta go through metal detectors everywhere, they search your bags, they’re worried that everybody might be a terrorist here. It’s just a world stage event, and they want to make sure that everybody’s legit.

There’s also a McDonald’s in the athlete’s village. That’s so gross. When I saw that, I was like, “I’ve gotta leave, I can’t stay here.” For me, being a healthy, organic vegetarian, to show up and have that be a centerpiece of the village is sad. Where’s the Whole Foods? We’re trying to be healthy for this thing. It just shows that parts of the Olympics are a sell-out marketing campaign.

LW: Did anyone actually eat at that McDonald’s?

HT: I’d really like to see how all the athletes who ate McDonald’s did, because I have a feeling they didn’t do that great.

LW: Is it easy being a vegetarian as an athlete?

HT: There are so many different ways to get protein as a vegetarian, like Warrior Protein, which is all these different raw sprouted grains — it’s higher protein than meat and better for you. After I became a vegetarian about a year ago, I felt so much different, and way more clear, but I was sore for a couple of days, because the buildup of the fatty acids from the meat has to come out of your body.

If everyone would see the videos on where meat actually comes from, I think 90 percent of the world would be vegetarian. The documentary that got me to switch is called Earthlings, and anybody who watches that will be changed forever, like I was.

LW: Your oldest brother, Amen, is also your agent. How long has he been representing you?

HT: From the beginning. When I started competing, he was there. For four years, he was just working with me, and then he started working for Octagon, and still works with me through them. He’s really good at it — he went to school for business, he’s good at negotiating, he’s that type of guy that’ll get you the top dollar.

LW: How many brothers do you have?

HT: Four total. I’m the youngest, and the only girl. Elijah is 26, he competes still, and he’s really good. Abe is 31, he retired, but he started the snowboarding in the family, and he was amazing. Amen is 33, he kind of snowboards; and then my other brother Josh, who’s 28, is handicapped, so he snowblades. They’re like short skis that you just cruise around on, and he’s good at that.

LW: Did you get into snowboarding by watching them, then?

HT: I watched them for a couple of years, and I would go to Abe’s competitions in Vermont and see how cool it looked. He would build little jumps in our backyard and go flying off of them, and made it look like so much fun, so I wanted to try. I was pretty good right off the bat, because I knew the mechanics of it from watching them. It came pretty easy to me, and I started competing at maybe 11 or 12 years old, in baby contests at the mountain where I’d be the one in my age group, and win a prize bag with like, a t-shirt and free gear.

LW: And snowboarding has been your life ever since — you went pro instead of doing college or anything like that, right?

HT: I barely even did high school. I mean, I did really well in high school, but I went to a snowboard academy, Okemo Mountain School in Vermont, and you know … it was that kind of schooling. We’d snowboard in the morning, and then go to class from maybe 12 to 4:30 or 5. And they were mellow enough to just let me go and travel, and do some schoolwork here and there.

LW: You’re doing fine with your career now … but do you ever think about college?

HT: There’s always time to do that. Not that I really want to, because I’m not great at reading — I like reading, I just have a hard time absorbing information that way. If I did go to school I’d probably study environmental science, and look at working towards some kind of earth-conscious job.

LW: With all the weather at the Olympics, what were the halfpipe conditions really like at Cypress?

HT: Cypress was actually pretty good last year, when we showed up for a World Cup, and they had just gotten a bunch of snow that was all powder. This year, they just got screwed.

They canceled our first three days of practice [at the Olympics]. Then when we got in for two days, it was horrible, I couldn’t even really get out of the pipe. I was just focusing on not dying. But the night before the guy’s competition it got way better, and then for the contest, it was actually not that bad at all.

LW: You did your SI swimsuit shoot in Whistler. Were you surprised that you had to defend yourself to the media for being a part of the issue?

HT: I knew that was coming. There’s such a stigma around people being naked or being risque. It’s a horrible stigma. The fact that women can go to jail for walking around naked is just ridiculous. That gave me big motivation to be more risque so I could stand up for something I thought was wrong.

LW: You posed to make a statement?

HT: Yeah. I didn’t have to get that risque. They asked me, “Do you want to be topless?” I thought about it for a second and said, “Yeah. I do. Let’s make more of a statement here.”

LW: I think it was Amanda Beard who went nude to make a statement for PETA during the Beijing Olympics …

HT: That’s an amazing statement to make. If you’re going to pose naked for anything, do it for that anti-fur campaign. One of the most horrific things you’ll ever experience watching is how they make fur coacts. Go to PETA’s Web site and watch one of the videos. They have these beautiful animals in cages, and they take them out, and they don’t do anything to kill them in advance — they just bash them on the head with a club and they skin them alive. People are into fake stuff in horror movies, but I get scared by what’s actually going on out there.

LW: What would you say to figure skater Johnny Weir, who stayed in the Olympic village because he was worried about threats from anti-fur protesters?

HT: I think if Johnny had a clue about where that fur came from and the tragic gruesomeness behind it, he would never wear fur again. I don’t think he looked into it enough.

LW: Who’s the most inspiring U.S. Olympian to you, outside of snowboarding?

HT: Picabo Street gave us the fun part of the Olympic lecture before we came here. She was telling us, “Have fun, it’s a chance of a lifetime.” That was cool to meet her, because she’s huge — or was huge, you know. She’s an all-time Olympian.

LW: What’s next for you, now that the Olympics is over?

HT: I’m just trying to be creative with charities. We just launched a new underwear campaign — sweetcheekspanties.com, if you want to see them — and we’re coming out with a new design each month for charity. This month is the “Make Love, Not War” panty for Haiti. That’s fun to work on, because I’ve always wanted to help design a clothing line.

LW: You took a break from boarding after the last Olympics, right?

HT: I had surgery right after Torino, on my knee. Because I had a lesion — a cracked piece of bone chipped out.

LW: And you won gold with a loose piece of bone floating around in your knee.

HT: Yeah, it was great. I didn’t practice the whole time I was there, really, because I was just worked. But I’m healthy now, healthy as I’ve ever been. We have the U.S. Open coming up in Stratton [in March], so I’m going to do that. But what I really want to do now is go to the beach.

  • Published On Feb. 23, 2010 by lukewinn

    1. Elisabeth Seely

      I think it is really cool that Hannah Teter is a vegetarian. There aren’t too many athletes who are vegetarians. Especially snowboarders. I’m against wearing animal fur too. It is so inhumane and it’s just plain wrong too. I think Hannah Teter rules! She’s an awesome snowboarder!

    2. mike

      Yeah, its great that she’s a vegetarian…but dont sleep on meat. There is nothing more organic than a nice deer steak. I think we should be careful how we judge people..its funny how the folks complain most about BEING judged often choose to judge others on of all things…what others choose to eat..or wear. I dont typically eat a MD, but I certainly dont judge those who do.
      Its also funny the people who want to ‘get back to basics’ and live an organic life have such a problem with fur…there is nothing more organic to wear than a coat made of the hide of an animal you just devoured. Its what all of our ancestors did… Embrace it.
      I people should think before becoming spiritually invested in what they eat or wear….this kind of emotional response may be taking the place of an actual religion in their lives.

    3. 2/26/10


      Congrats on your medals and thanks for being an inspiration on so many levels! Your charity work & donations is pretty awesome.

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