By Merisa Sherman
I was panicking we were going to be late. I didn’t really have any specifics, but I wasn’t going to miss this moment for anything. It was an absolute honor to have been invited to share in this once-in-a-lifetime event and we were going to be there.
The roads were eerily empty but the sky was perfectly clear. As we made our way up the Killington Road, we saw more and more headlights join the ascent. Our once solo ride was now littered with headlights in the dark, all headed in the same direction and my heart started pounding as I realized what was happening.
Our community had been summoned and was arriving.
As we pulled into the Snowshed lot, it was almost full. At 6 in the morning. Person after person peeled out of their cars, quiet in the darkness. We checked one door to find it locked and my heart leapt in my chest. How were we supposed to get in? I ran across the courtyard and pulled on the next door and almost fell backward. We were in.
It was too quiet in the base lodge. Way too quiet and we saw no one as we headed up the stairs to the main level.
Finally, we saw a single employee exit the ballroom and we made our way. I couldn’t help but say a quick prayer that there would be greatness inside and grabbed the door with both hands.
I should have known better than to doubt the Killington community. The room was full. Not just with members of the Freestyle Team, but the Stray Flakes and The 802 Crew and so many others. There was blue and white tie-dye everywhere and those rainbow pinnies looked absolutely amazing. Red, white and blue balloons littered the ballroom and young athletes were running around waving American flags.
It felt like World Cup. Or tailgating in the parking lot at the bottom of Superstar in the spring. Only it wasn’t either of those. It was so, so much greater. It was the freakin’ Olympics and we were there to cheer on one of our own, someone who we had watched grow up from a little girl. Who we had seen fall in love with skiing from the very beginning and work so hard to show the world that love. This was our hero, our Olympian and we were there for her.
As the announcer began his introduction, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. We could have pretended it was due to lack of sleep, but we knew that wasn’t true. That picture with Hannah and Donna tugged on your heart strings. Yes, we were all here for a “watch party,” but we were also there to remind the world that Killington is the heart and soul of mogul skiing.
We screamed as our own Hannah Soar slid out to the top of the Olympic Mogul Course. She would give her best and we would give nothing less. We were giving our best to the world. We couldn’t sit still, everyone on the edges of their seats or standing on them. We cheered as she left the start … and then you could have heard a pin drop as we held our breath. No one wanted to miss a single beautiful turn. And then we jumped as she landed her jumps and then went right back to having those knees glued together. It was beautiful.
We were a part of it, this greatness, even from so many miles and time zones away. Her parents sat in the front row, and we cheered our hearts out, over our own nausea and through the tears of joy. We cheered as she made it to the round of 12 and then sat quietly, clapping for the other athletes, cheering for the Americans but nervous deep in our souls. You could feel the love and energy being sent through the screen, cradling our little girl as we went through every emotion possible, waiting to hear if she had qualified for the final round of six.
When the last skier finished and we realized she would be seventh, a cheer rose from the crowd. There was no disappointment. She didn’t need a medal to have our love, we just wanted her to watch her ski forever. And now we would have to wait until she came home.
“Hi, this is NBC. Can you hear me?” A voice broke out into the room and everything went dead quiet. “We’re going to try to get Hannah so you can talk to her, okay?” And then, a few minutes later, she was there on the split screen and we listened to hear her parents tell her what we were all thinking, what we all wanted to say — how proud we were of her. And then, our community let out one finally cheer of support and pride … and love.
Congratulations, Hannah! We could not have had a better ambassador to represent our country and our community. See you on Superstar in the spring!!!