Unprompted, state champion skier returns medal because he wasn’t eligible to compete

Cameron Smith

For nearly two months, Minnehaha (Minn.) Academy junior Bjorn Halvorson was the Minnesota State High School League Alpine Skiing state champion. Then, suddenly, he was not. While the full reasons behind that sudden shift in status remain opaque, the person who brought on the change is shocking: Halvorson himself.

As reported by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and other sources, Halvorson voluntarily returned his state gold medal in the midst of questions over whether he should have been eligible to compete in the state final. Making matters more intriguing was news which broke Thursday that Halvorson is no longer enrolled at Minnehaha Academy and that his mother, Sarah  Halvorson, is no longer the coach of the school's boys and girls skiing programs.

While the precise reason for Halvorson's voluntary ineligibility remain to be revealed -- if they ever are -- the junior's integrity in voluntarily handing over a state title which he could have held indefinitely is laudable at the very least, as Minnehaha principal Nancy Johnson told the Star-Tribune. Previous league bylaws made it questionable whether the MSHSL could take back a student's medal if he or she claimed they had not violated a league rule but were later proven to have done so.

"Bjorn returned his medal. It was a decision that he made because he felt it was the right thing to do,'' said Minnehaha Academy Principal Nancy Johnson. "We're proud that he took that step.''

While there is little question that Halvorson did the right thing, an authority no less than MSHSL Executive Director Dave Stead said that the junior's action was unprecedented.

"In my 26 years we've never had this happen before," Stead told the Star-Tribune. "But there was a student-athlete who contacted us to say, 'There was an eligibility issue on my part and I decided that what I should do is return the medal.'"

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