Hannah Teter snowboards for fun " and for the kids
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. ” Most snowboarders have an iPod inside their parka as they fly above the halfpipe, letting the music carry them across the ice and snow and into another world.
Hannah Teter takes the idea of “another world” to a different level. Right next to her iPod, she also carries a picture she took of schoolchildren in Africa, the ones she wants to help through her snowboarding.
The Olympic gold medalist, best known to many in the “mainstream” as that dippy, groovy, kid from Vermont who makes maple syrup, has taken a more serious approach as she prepares for the next Winter Games. All her winnings will go toward a charity project that helps kids in Kenya get access to better schools, medical attention and clean water.
A worthy cause, indeed, even if it’s not the most likely of projects in the land of the Winter X Games.
“For me, being raised in America, to go over there and see what other people live through, it’s just super heavy and grounding,” Teter said. “It makes you so appreciative of what we have and what I have.”
What Teter has is a tremendous sense of perspective for a 21-year-old who makes her living shredding through halfpipes. Snowboarders and the action sports crowd are, in general, a fun, relatively harmless bunch.
Most of them recognize that they have already reached the bonus round of life ” making millions competing and shooting movies in one of the more profitable and trendy pastimes out there.
Yet there is a surprising dearth of charitable work mentioned on their Web sites. That’s one thing Teter would like to change about her sport ” she’s also trying to get a team together to market her Specialized Goodness wrist bands and shirts, made from organic products ” and she’s putting her money where her mouth is.
She is scheduled to compete in about 10 events this season (she finished fourth and out of the money at an event in Breckenridge in December) and will donate all her prize money to her charities.
A noble gesture that’s practically unheard of in any sport these days, even by those who like to say “it’s not about the money.” Teter is realistic on this subject, too. She says she can afford to do it thanks to endorsement contracts that reach the deep six figures.
“I’ve been blessed to have enough to buy organic and have a house in Tahoe. I know I’m going to be able to eat,” Teter said. “This way, I can work it so that anything extra, I can give to charity.”
Over the summer, Teter made her first trip to Kenya to see where the money was going.
In a town of 56,000 called Kirindon, she toured a number of schools, most with newly dug wells to provide fresh drinking water. They were building an addition to one school. And a boarding school at another place for runaway girls, some of whom are bartered and subjected to early marriages.
“So trippy,” is how Teter described the trip. “It was so intense, the first school we went to. We didn’t know what to expect. We’re rolling through the backcountry. It was a day off for the kids, so we’re not sure how many people are going to be there. But they all showed up. All 650 kids walked to school. They sang. They were in their fancy travel outfits. It was the most harmonious, heart-wrenching thing. Like, happy-sad. Intense but amazing. All these things at once.”
Teter went on the trip with her parents and brothers, who make up the business and family venture they call “Team Teter.” One brother, Amen, is her agent and works for the Octagon sports marketing firm. Two others, Abe and Elijah, are also a professional snowboarders. A few decades ago her parents, Jeff and Pat, moved from Missouri to Vermont at the urging of Hannah’s grandmother, who had a vision of a better life there.
“We came from rural, flat, dry, dusty Missouri, and now we’ve got this life,” Amen said. “The whole family has been so blessed, it’s ridiculous. We’re some of the luckiest people in the world on pretty much every level.”
Amen says Hannah’s giving streak is a result of the way their parents raised her.
“‘Do good unto others.’ That was the only real law in the world the way they saw it,” he said.
Hannah has set the goal of raising $100,000 for Kirindon in 2009, an amount that goes a lot further in Africa than it would in America in part because everything ” labor, raw materials ” is cheaper. Some of the money comes from selling syrup and some from donations made via her Web site, hannahsgold.com.
Even bigger chunks could come, of course, from the $10,000 and $20,000 prize checks she could win on tour this season.
The idea to donate the checks came during one of those typically dark periods athletes go through when they’re rehabilitating from chronic injuries. Shortly after winning her Olympic gold medal in the Italian Alps in 2006, Teter had surgery on a lesion in her knee. It didn’t fix the problem and she needed two more operations to return to health.
There were times when she wondered if the pain was worth it.
“I just wanted to snowboard for a higher cause,” she said. “The competition can get repetitive and a little bit old, especially when you’ve been doing it for seven years. I kinda wanted a new ambition, to really want to do well all the time and do it for a reason.”
That reason is the kids whose picture she keeps in the jacket pocket.
A great idea that has added a new twist to the concept of pressure.
“Because if you don’t do good, you think of how hard you might be on yourself because you didn’t get to help all those people with the money you might have won if you’d done well,” she said.
She spoke with a sports psychologist provided by the U.S. Ski Team ” yes, even the snowboarders had to go ” and came up with a strategy to deal with the pressure.
“You just say, ‘Relax, keep mellow, keep the flow going,'” she said. “Don’t be too concerned with the results, because if you’re in the moment, it’s going to happen.
“It’s supposed to be about not taking it too seriously.”
As it turns out, though, Teter takes this whole snowboarding thing seriously. Maybe more seriously than most folks might have guessed.
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