By Katy Savage
Hannah Soar didn’t get a medal in her first Olympics on Feb. 6, but that didn’t matter to those who watched her grow up skiing.
About 200 people got up before the sun on Sunday to cheer Soar on at Killington’s Snowshed Lodge for a 6 a.m. watch party. The room had cowbells, USA flags and photos of Soar.
“We couldn’t stay seated,” Soar’s friend Sammi Sofer said. “We were so excited for her run. I’m just so proud.”
Soar finished seventh in the qualification round on Feb. 3 putting her into the finals on Feb. 6, where she finished seventh again — this time one place off from qualifying for the super final round. Soar’s teammate Jaelin Kauf from Vail, Colorado, won a silver medal at the event while Jakara Anthony got the gold, becoming the first Australian woman to earn a medal in the event. Anastasiia Smirnova of the Russian Olympic Committee got bronze.
“She skied spectacularly,” Soar’s friend Lisa Magliano said. “Everyone was screaming, everyone was going nuts.”
Magliano, who organized the watch party, had 150 tie-dye bibs with an image of Soar on the front. People of all ages, ranging from 5 to 80, skied in tie-dye — a signature of Soar’s —all weekend, while strangers on the slopes shouted, “Go Hannah.”
“It’s Hannah giving back and I think that’s why this following is what it is,” Magliano said. “Hannah gives back to the community.”
Frank Marinella, a coach at the Killington Ski Club, who used to coach a mogul camp with Soar at Whistler in British Columbia, said Soar sent him a text message from China just before finals, with a picture of a note his daughter wrote Soar years before the Olympics.
Soar texted, “Let the girls know I kept those notes all these years and I just reread them before I went out to compete,” Marinella said.
The text message led to added excitement at the watch party. “(The girls) were screaming, they thought it was so cool,” Marinella said. “Even on the biggest stage in the world, [Hannah] is grounded and thinking about the girls from back home.”
The letters were from skiers Soar used to coach. Marinella’s daughter Grace wrote Soar’s five rules for skiing — “Have fun. Be polite. Don’t waste snow. Apply or die. Think before you do.” Marinella said.
“I was surprised she still had them,” said Grace, who has long been a fan of Soar’s. “I was really happy she saved them. It took me a long time to think about what to write to her.”
Others wrote quotes from Soar, like “Why do you think the sky is the limit when there are footprints on the moon.”
“Everyone was very proud of her,” Marinella said. “It meant a lot to all of them.”
Soar’s watch party was featured on the live broadcast as Hannah Kearney, a Norwich native and one of the analysts, offered insight into ski conditions in the East. Kearney won both the FIS Freestyle World Cup mogul title and the overall crystal globe in 2015 and she knows Killington well.
While the weather was cold in China, Kearney assured the audience that wouldn’t be a problem for Soar: “Cold temperatures? No problem if you’re from Killington,” she said on the NBC broadcast, adding, “The snow conditions back East? Not always perfect!”
Soar didn’t know her hometown would be on television.
“I walked past the screen and I was like, ‘wait a second, I know those people. They are my parents!’” Soar said after the event. “I couldn’t really hear them but their smiles on their faces said it all.”
Soar is expected to be back in Killington around Feb. 15 for a week before continuing competitions on the World Cup.
“We can’t wait to shower her with love,” Sofer said, as she was driving home Sunday night, after the watch party and a day of skiing. Sofer planned to re-watch Soar’s run again that night.
For Soar, it’s an experience that will always stay with her. “I’ll never forget the feeling of standing at the top of the course in the gate, and realizing how special this moment really is,” Soar said.