Now that Basalt’s Hanna Faulhaber has set foot in China ahead of her Winter Olympics appearance this week, reality may have set in. But before she flew to Beijing last Wednesday, she was still floating in a dream world. .
“It definitely hasn’t settled down,” she told The Aspen Times before heading to China. “I still think of myself as Hanna Faulhaber. I don’t know if the fact that I’m going to the Olympics or that I’ve been to the Olympics will really settle down one day.
The 17-year-old Basalt High School senior and rising star of women’s halfpipe skiing traveled to Zhangjiakou, where she will compete in the Olympics for the first time later this week. Her rise has accelerated over the past year, where she quickly went from one of the top rising stars in the country to a constant podium threat for the US Ski Team.
Although not one of the official U.S. Olympic team qualifiers, Faulhaber’s fourth-place finish at the world championships last March in Aspen put her firmly on the international map. Then came a string of strong results in World Cup events this winter that secured him a spot on the US team for Beijing. This included her first major podium when she finished third in the Dew Tour in December at Copper Mountain.
“We hadn’t expected this at all. Maybe in the future, something you’re obviously working towards,” Belinda Faulhaber, Hanna’s mother, said of her daughter going to the Olympics so early in her career. “We hadn’t expected it so soon. Maybe after last year and the worlds and we saw how she was skiing but a lot of it is on Hanna and all her hard work and training and just persevering and trying to get the new ones stuff. It doesn’t come overnight. A lot of work goes into it. »
As excited as Hanna Faulhaber is about the Olympics, even she doesn’t know if the experience, regardless of her results in China, will touch that of her time at X Games Aspen last month. Like all of the local athletes at the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club, she grew up with the X Games in her backyard and got her first start in ESPN’s signature event this year at Buttermilk Ski Area.
Getting through was enough for Faulhaber. But she did more than just compete, eventually winning bronze behind her American teammate Brita Sigourney. – who only passed Faulhaber in the standings in her last race – and contest winner Kelly Sildaru from Estonia.
“It still feels like a dream, and probably always will. Tonight was so special and unreal,” Hanna Faulhaber said. “It was great to have friends and family there to watch and support, as well as people from all over the valley. Getting the bronze was definitely the icing on the cake, but I was just happy to ‘finally participating in my first X Games. The whole evening would have been special with or without the third medal.
Now she’s going to see if she can add to her medal collection. Faulhaber was named to the US team for the Beijing Olympics alongside Sigourney of California (third Olympics), Devin Logan of Vermont (third Olympics) and Carly Margulies of California. Although this is also the first Games appearance for Margulies, at 24 she has far more experience to draw on than Faulhaber, who is by far the youngest member of the American quartet.
Sigourney is the reigning Olympic bronze medalist in women’s halfpipe skiing, having finished third in Pyeongchang behind runner-up Marie Martinod of France and 2018 champion Cassie Sharpe of Canada. The discipline only made its Olympic debut in 2014, when American icon Maddie Bowman won this first gold medal ahead of Martinod and Japan’s Ayana Onozuka.
Bowman, Martinod and Onozuka have all since retired from competitive halfpipe skiing.
The US men’s halfpipe ski team in Beijing includes two-time reigning Olympic gold medalist David Wise of Nevada and reigning Olympic silver medalist Alex Ferreira of Aspenwith Aaron Blunck of Crested Butte and Birk Irving of Winter Park.
Ferreira, who like Faulhaber grew up skiing with AVSC, is excited about what he sees from his Roaring Fork Valley comrade.
“Hanna is amazing,” Ferreira said. “I’m so happy for her not only to have persevered to do well in those previous competitions, but also to have made her first Olympic team. She has shown real courage, a hard work ethic and a good personality so far. So I’m really excited for her.
Faulhaber will have his work cut out for him in China. Along with the return of Sharpe and Sigourney looking to defend their 2018 podiums, there’s a new generation of athletes hoping to steal the show, led by Sildaru and Eileen Gu.
Sildaru, 19, is a first-time Olympian, having been injured in the 2018 cycle. She recently became the most decorated teenager in Winter X Games history – she has already won 10 medals – and also does one of the favorites to win in slopestyle.
American-born Gu, who competes internationally for her mother’s homeland of China, is arguably the star of all these Olympics. The 18-year-old Californian broke out at the X Games Aspen in 2021 when she won three medals, including two gold, in her debut there. And it was only last week that Gu lived up to the hype surrounding her by winning big air Olympic gold in her first competition. games.
Gu and Sildaru are the favorites for Olympic gold in the halfpipe, with qualifying starting Thursday morning in China.
“I really need to step up some things for the Olympics like I need a bit bigger switch lap and maybe just revamp my running a bit. But it will definitely keep growing,” Faulhaber said of his planned halfpipe race in China. “I’m definitely not going to go conservative. Definitely get the “go big or go home” idea and leave nothing on the table. We will send it as much as possible and I hope everything will be fine.
Faulhaber’s biggest advantage is its amplitude, which easily ranks among the best in women’s halfpipe skiing. She reached up to 17 feet above the lip of the halfpipe at the X Games, a number some male snowboarders don’t even reach on some strokes. That said, his technical skills still need polishing, and it was Sildaru’s precision that won him gold last month in Aspen.
“My dream race, I think, maybe. We’ll just have to wait and see. I have to do it first,” Faulhaber said when asked if she believed her planned Olympic race had podium potential. She hopes her amplitude will impress the Olympic judges more than those of the X Games. “You never know who is judging and what they will think. I really think there were occasions when people liked it or not. I’ll do it anyway, but we’ll see. Hopefully adding new cheats will help.
Faulhaber is one of two current or former BHS students at the Olympics this year, while 23-year-old cross-country skier Hailey Swirbul is also competing in China this month.. Faulhaber posted on Instagram on Saturday her encouragement for Swirbul live from the women’s 4×5 kilometer relay, in which the United States finished sixth. This is also Swirbul’s first Olympics, and cross-country skiing and halfpipe competitions are held in the Zhangjiakou district outside of Beijing.
With no fans at this year’s Olympics – except for some select Chinese citizens who are allowed to watch in person – Faulhaber and Swirbul explained how important it is to think of those in the Roaring Fork Valley cheering them on in China. While Swirbul trained in Europe, Faulhaber and Ferreira both competed in an Olympic send-off event January 26 from the base of Aspen Mountain.
“I will be representing the Valley, Aspen Snowmass, AVSC and Team USA. But it’s going to be weird without everyone,” said Faulhaber, who enjoyed the farewell celebration. “It was super cute to see all the young kids there and it was a great opportunity for me to see a few people I hadn’t seen in a while, just like the X Games was. was really refreshing, that would be a good word to use to explain it. It was nice to see the whole valley there and support me and Alex and Hailey. It’s great to see.