How did Haymitch win The Hunger Games?

Trudie Graham
Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy in The Hunger Games Catching Fire.

Here’s how Woody Harrelson’s mentor character Haymitch Abernathy won his Hunger Games.

The Hunger Games hinted at Haymitch’s win multiple times as he guided Katniss and Peeta towards victory in the story.

In Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games books, the details of this win are explored more intensely. However, the films merely alluded to the trauma he brought out of the arena with him.

Despite Haymitch’s behavioral issues when he first met him in The Hunger Games movies, he was a capable tribute thanks to his deep understanding of the Games’ political underpinnings and survival skills. Here’s how Haymitch won The Hunger Games.

How did Haymitch win The Hunger Games?

Haymitch won his Hunger Games by reaching the Cornucopia quickly and teaming up with a District 12 tribute. He killed the last remaining tribute by dodging her axe attack and letting the weapon rebound off the arena’s forcefield back at her.

Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy in The Hunger Games Catching Fire
Haymitch was the 2nd Quarter Quell victor.

The movies don’t divulge these details, but Collins writes about Haymitch’s Games in the novels.

When he was a teenager, Haymitch was reaped for the 50th Hunger Games. His fellow tribute from District 12 was a girl named Maysilee Donner, and they allied together for a short time. During a fight with other tributes, Maysilee saved Haymitch’s life by killing his attacker with a knife that Haymitch snatched from the Cornucopia early in the game.

As the number of tributes fell, Maysilee went off on her own and was later attacked and killed by bird-mutts.

It came down to Haymitch and the District 1 female tribute as the finalists. They faced off, and as they approached a cliff, the girl attempted to kill an already-injured Haymitch with a throwing axe.

Unlike Haymitch, she hadn’t realized the arena was surrounded by a force field (similar to the one in Catching Fire that Peeta runs into at the arena’s edge, or when Katniss fires an arrow into the sky). Haymitch dodged the axe, which ricocheted off the forcefield and into her head.

Did Haymitch win The Hunger Games twice?

Haymitch won The Hunger Games only once as an active tribute in the area.

In a sense, though, he beat the Games three times: once during the 2nd Quarter Quell as a tribute, once more when Peeta and Katniss survived their first Games, and again in Catching Fire when he and the resistance outsmarted the Capitol to evacuate Katniss.

Also, winning the 2nd Quarter Quell was a grander achievement than beating the regular Games because it reaped double the number of tributes.

Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy in The Hunger Games Catching Fire.
Haymitch is one of the few District 12 victors.

What age did Haymitch win The Hunger Games?

Haymitch beat The Hunger Games when he was 16-years-old.

Unsurprisingly, his delicate age at the time was one of the compounding factors for his eventual troubles with alcoholism and severe PTSD as a result of the Games.

As a District 12 tribute, Haymitch was something of an underdog — just like Katniss — due to poverty and oppression within his region.

For more on Panem, check out where to stream Hunger Games movies, whether you can find The Hunger Games movies on Netflix, and when The Hunger Games take place. Or, find out why you’re wrong about the worst Hunger Games movies.