February 23, 2006

Ride and smile

[Guest post by Ben Yagoda]

The most extravagant linguistic virtuoso I’ve recently encountered is Hannah Teter, a 19-year-old Vermonter. Teter won the Women's Halfpipe gold medal at the Olympics last week, listening through her iPod to a band called Strive Roots ("They’re super good," she would tell the Today Show’s Matt Lauer) as she took big air and made amazing 900-degree spins.

Afterwards she faced the obligatory questions at the obligatory press conference. She gave anything but the obligatory answers. Borrowing what she wanted from African-American, surfer and hippie vernacular -- and throwing into the mix the gnomic lingo of her sport -- she talked the way she snowboards: with full-throttle abandon and improvisational joy.

Asked about the injury she overcame to win, she said, "I had a little thing going with my knee. I nursed it and iced it and got in the pool and did yoga and lit the candles at night and zoned in. Ain’t no big thang."

And her thoughts before she made her first of two runs?

"I was standing up there, and Gretchen [Bleiler, her teammate, who won silver] threw down so hard. It was like, 'Whoa, I'm going to have to step it up…' It was like, 'Represent, U.S.'
" I wanted to try to go as big as I could and tweak my grabs hard.
" I just wanted to ride and smile. That’s what’s going on. That’s what’s rolling."

At one point, the Times reported, Teter’s ponytail came undone. She took a hat from a police officer and put it on. "I’m superstoked," she explained.

Teter’s first run was so good that she could have just coasted in the second one and still taken gold. "My coach said, 'OK, victory lap,' and I was like, 'No way, victory lap,'" she said. "I wanted to step it up and do my thing." And she did—surpassing her first score by a significant margin.

A reporter asked the ultimate cliché question, Olympic division: what will you do with your medal?

Teter: "Hang it on the wall. Is that a good thing to do with it? I'll probably take it up to our house in Vermont. I'll probably just staple it to the wall."

Finally it came time to bring the press conference to an end. Teter nailed that one too. "Gotta go pee in a cup, guys," she said by way of goodbye.


[Guest post by Ben Yagoda]

Posted by Mark Liberman at February 23, 2006 11:14 AM