The Sochi Games were always a part of Katie Hartman’s plan.

Having grown up in the mountain town of Breckenridge, Colo., Hartman wore her first pair of skis before she was two and entered her first race at age five. By the time she joined the University of Colorado Ski Team as a freshman in 2008, she had already raced at two junior world championships and was competing regularly on the international circuit.

Hartman discussed her goals with CU Ski Team Head Coach Richard Rokos from the start.

“I told him, ‘I want to ski for you and for this university, but on the alternate end I want to ski on the U.S. Ski Team and make the world cup circuit and go to the Olympics,” Hartman said. “He was so supportive. Throughout my career at CU, he was always pushing me and helping me, and he was a huge voice for me towards the U.S. Ski Team.”

During her career as a Buff, Hartman recorded eight podium finishes and three race victories. At the 2011 World University Games in Erzurum, Turkey, she won the super-G before suffering a torn ACL the following day in competition. After skiing her final season as a redshirt senior for CU in 2012, Hartman graduated with a degree in psychology and competed for a year professionally.

In December of 2013, she was invited to travel to Europe with the U.S. Ski Team and try for a spot on the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team.

The day after she received that invite, however, Hartman re-tore her ACL and suffered a micro-fracture during training.

Suddenly, competing in Sochi was no longer an option.

But while Hartman didn’t know it at the time, going to Sochi still was.

One of Hartman’s childhood coaches, Sean Ramsden, was a 1993 First Team All-American while at CU and is now a coach for the U.S. Paralympics Alpine Skiing National Team. Earlier that summer, Ramsden had brought Hartman to a world cup in New Zealand with the Paralympic team to help with coaching and mentorship.

When he heard about Hartman’s injury, Ramsden invited her to join Team USA as staff at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, which were held two weeks after the Olympics from March 7-16.

At the Games, Hartman worked with the alpine team as a trainer, mentor and jack-of-all-trades.

“It was interesting to get that perspective of what the staff does at the Olympics,” Hartman said. “We were up at 6 a.m. and out on the hill at 7 with the first load of equipment for our athletes. Then, essentially, we were there just as backup on the hill – if we needed to help athletes go get tested for USADA or what not.”

Hartman also worked closely with athletes off the hill.

“I helped in the gym and wherever I was needed,” Hartman said. “With my background in ski racing and having been to that level of competition, a lot of the athletes would come to me and ask how I would handle a situation. It was really nice for me to give back in some way – not being able to compete in my own Olympics, but to be able to help them compete in their own Paralympics was really rewarding.”

Though she wasn’t racing herself, Hartman relished every moment in Sochi as part of the “team behind the team”.

“Sochi was such an amazing experience,” Hartman said. “Especially with my injury and what I was going through, just to be around people that were so happy to be competing was awesome.”

One moment that stood out for Hartman was watching 18-year-old U.S. Paralympian Stephanie Jallen, who is missing her left arm and leg, win bronze in the first race of her Paralympic career, the super-G.

“That was one of the most distinct moments, because (Stephanie) definitely went over there with no expectations. As athletes we are always trying to win gold or whatever, but just to watch the pure joy of the sport, working so hard to finally get to a result that’s amazing was really something special,” Hartman said. “That was very motivating – just to watch that pure excitement, doing something that you didn’t think you could possibly do.”

Hartman is not finished chasing her own racing dreams, either. The U.S. Ski Team nominates new athletes in May. Though Hartman is not yet recovered from her injury, she hopes to be recognized for her potential and previous accomplishments.

“I hope the U.S. team looks at my progress and realizes that I’m still progressing and getting faster,” Hartman said. “I still love the sport, so I’m just hoping for a chance to keep competing.”

Hartman’s trip to the Games with Team USA is an experience she will never forget. And whether she races for herself or continues to support the dreams of Paralympians, Hartman is sure to stay connected with the sport she loves.