Vt. family discovers pride (and price) of Olympics
By Kevin O’Connor
Staff Writer | February 02,2014
Hannah Teter of Vermont flies through the air during a training run for the FIS World Cup in February 2009. She will compete this month in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Jeffery Teter, town road foreman for Mount Holly, population 1,237, thought this winter’s biggest challenge would be compensating for a co-worker who fell out of a hay barn and fractured a collarbone and several ribs. Then his snowboarding daughter, Hannah, won the chance to compete at the Sochi Winter Olympics and suddenly his family was trying to wing its way 5,000 miles to Russia.
“Just to get the visas expedited is $450 apiece,” he says. “There’s nothing cheap about this.”
Want to see your kid at the Olympics? Years of chauffeuring and chaperoning are just the start of the cost. Like other families of Vermont’s 14 Team USA athletes, the Teters have wrestled with whether to cheer from home or contend with high airfare, accommodations, tickets and terrorism threats.
“You don’t get the opportunity very many times to do something as crazy as go to Russia,” Teter says. “Some things you just got to do. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Forget the fact Teter and his wife, Patricia, traveled to Torino, Italy, to see their daughter win a gold medal in 2006 and to Vancouver, British Columbia, when she followed up with a silver in 2010. The moment Pat Teter, a Springfield Hospital nurse, learned the Sochi slate, “I thought, ‘Of course we’re going.’”
Hannah Teter — the rare human who can simultaneously eat her own Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor and ease into Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue — was just named Special Olympics’ first action sports global ambassador. But that doesn’t mean her parents can pull strings or push their way into the games.
“We’re not rich or anything,” her father says.
Wonder why Hannah doesn’t simply wave a wand to provide a private jet? Medal potential aside, she doesn’t have magic powers. Besides, she funnels a percentage of her earnings into humanitarian, development and advocacy organizations that build schools and water wells and filtration systems, feed children in poverty and fight for human and animal rights.
“Hannah grew up with a pretty tender heart,” older brother Amen, who doubles as her agent and manager, told ESPN. “When she was 7 or 8, she started using her allowance to sponsor children in need. Our parents tried to raise us all to be as compassionate as possible.”
The U.S. Olympic Committee named its snowboarding team only two weeks ago, so the Teters didn’t take the chance on booking an advance nonrefundable ticket-and-travel package like another family whose child ultimately didn’t qualify. The silver lining: The Vermonters are assuming those arrangements, paying the advertised $182 admission rather than scalper prices of up to $1,000 for the sold-out contest.
Likewise, the Teters booked a last-minute flight that was later canceled, only to find a rate $600 cheaper.
“We figured if we went, it would just work out,” Jeff Teter says, “and that’s how it’s working out.”
With a lot of work, his wife adds: “It’s not like visiting any country we’ve ever been to before. It’s layer upon layer upon layer of security.”
The Teters have read all the headlines about anticipated attacks — right after they answered all the visa questions that seemingly would disqualify anyone with an unexcused tardy in third grade.
“When we went to Italy, it was just bring along a passport,” Pat Teter says. “This is quite the process. It’s probably going to be the most secure Olympics. We’re not worried at all.”
Besides, they’re not attending the whole event — set to open Friday and close Feb. 23 — just the women’s halfpipe competition Feb. 12 and maybe the men’s the day before. To do so, they’ll drive five hours to New York City, then fly 10 hours to Moscow and another two hours to Sochi.
“It’s a ways,” Jeff Teter says.
The Teters will be joined by sons Abe (who’s coaching Australian snowboarder Scotty James), Elijah (who’s coaching Hannah and fellow halfpiper Kaitlyn Farrington) and Josh, while Amen will take care of business back home (his sister’s, that is — someone else will plow local roads).
The family can share past Olympic stories of cramped buses and beds but isn’t sure what to expect at the Black Sea coastal city where Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin decamped in the 1930s.
“We live at the end of a road in the mountains in Vermont,” Pat Teter says. “We’re used to roughing it.”
At competitions, for example, they crowd onto a cold, hard slope and watch the girl born at home launch her snowboard into the air to unleash tricks like a 900-degree spin — the move that won her gold in 2006.
“We feel pretty drained after a contest,” Jeff Teter says. “As far as her actually placing, I don’t care. It’s a dangerous sport. I just want her to walk away unscathed and with a smile on her face.”
“Look at my background,” his nurse wife adds. “If I had chosen, she would never have done this.”
So why travel halfway around the world to encourage her on?
“Like all parents,” Pat Teter responds, “we do what we have to do to support our kids.”
Even if it means security guards won’t let you near your child before, during or after an event.
“We’ll barely get to see her,” Jeff Teter says, “but she knows we’re there.”
That’s why he stops at Mount Holly Elementary School every four years so its 100 students can autograph a banner he waves for his daughter. His wife, for her part, is tackling luggage and language.
“In Italy there was a lot of pointing,” she says. “We’re going to work on some Russian words.”
And perhaps a few in Korean. The Teters notes that fellow Vermont snowboarder Kelly Clark is set to compete in her fourth Olympics at age 30 — the age their daughter will be in 2018 — giving them hope this might not be their last once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“Four years from now the games are going to be in South Korea,” Jeff Teter says. “That could be just as crazy as this.”
2014 Vermont Olympians
Biathlon: Hannah Dreissigacker of Morrisville and Susan Dunklee of Craftsbury
Cross country: Sophie Caldwell of Peru, Andy Newell of Shaftsbury, Ida Sargent of Orleans and Liz Stephen of East Montpelier
Skiing: Nolan Kasper of Warren, Hannah Kearney of Norwich and Devin Logan of West Dover
Snowboarding: Kelly Clark of West Dover, Jackie Hernandez of Londonderry, Lindsey Jacobellis of Stratton, Hannah Teter of Mount Holly and Ty Walker of Stowe