The 2010 Winter Olympics has been a smorgasbord of stunning performances, razor thin margins of victory, and unexpected upsets with the spice of controversy, rivalries, and at least one tragedy thrown in. And, as with every Olympics, an interesting assortment of back stories, as told by Bob Costas, has helped us choose individual personalities to root for-or against. Most of these back stories highlight, in some way, the athlete's unwavering, laser-like focus on becoming among the best in the world at their particular discipline. Apolo Ohno's four-a-day two hour workouts; bronze medal winning speed skater J.R. Celski's return from a potentially career ending leg gash in 2009 (with the help of Dr. Eric Heiden); both Hannah Kearney and Bode Miller's redemptive performances in Vancouver after disappointing strike outs in Turin in '06, and many, many more stories of amazing effort, commitment, and resilience.
My favorite of all the back stories is that of snowboarder Hannah Teter and her extensive charity efforts. Hannah is from Belmont, Vermont, the heart of Vermont's ski, snowboard, and maple syrup country. She created a foundation, Hannah's Gold, that sells “Grade A Medium Amber, Pure Vermont Maple Syrup” with the motto “Sweeten the World One Bottle at a Time”. Through a partnership with World Vision, she has “adopted” the town of Kirindon, Kenya. Hannah's Gold has raised over $178,000 for Kirindon. The focus, initially, was on providing clean drinking water and sanitation, but has also addressed AIDS victims, homelessness, farming equipment and methods, recreation for children, and other needs of the town. (visit hannahsgold.com for more info and/or to buy some syrup)
Now she has launched a new effort, “Sweet Cheeks. Panties with a Purpose”. (sweetcheekspanties.com) that donates its proceeds to Doctors Without Borders, her response to the devastation in Haiti. There is a Ben and Jerry's flavor, “Maple Blondie”, that helps fund Hannahs Gold.
In Vancouver, Hannah is sleeping under a quilt donated by Amp Energy Drinks, that is illustrated with images of Hannah snowboarding, and of Kirindon. Amp gave $20,100 to Hannahs Gold, and after the Olympics Hannah is going to auction the quilt. And Hannah gave ALL her prize money in 2009 to the charity.
There are, most definitely, a whole lot of athletes competing in Vancouver that are deserving of our awe. Not just the headliners, the medalists. Every athlete, even those who finish 18th, have reached a rarefied level most of us mortals can't even imagine. But this young lady, this 23 year old, spectacularly talented, hardworking snowboarder has reset the bar. Not, necessarily, for the medals she's won, but for the Gold she gives away.