Vermont's Kearney is the ski mogul

Chicago Tribune

You look at Hannah Kearney’s record beginning with the 2010 Olympics, and you figure it has to be a misprint.

I mean, how does anyone win the Olympic gold in freestyle moguls and then 18 of the next 21 events on the World Cup circuit – including 14 in a row -over the next three years?

And tack on a second world title Wednesday in Voss, Norway – eight years after her first?

"In this sport, you have to be on top of your game all the time, or your career isn't going to be successful," Kearney said Wednesday.  "There are always new athletes coming up and new tricks to perfect.  It's a constant game, and it's a pressure that I put on myself." 

Few athletes in a sport as affected by the elements as freestyle skiing have dominated a discipline as thoroughly as the 27-year-old from Vermont.

Yes, it’s an obscure event in the big sports picture, and Kearney understands that.

“I ski moguls.  People don’t know what that is or care until it’s the Olympics,” Kearney told the Boston Globe after winning in Vancouver.

That doesn’t make what she has done any less impressive.

"I have to say that my injury this season definitely helped me keep my focus," she said.  "When I was watching my competitors train and compete, it pushed me to not be complacent...(to) make up for the lost time and come back stronger than I was before."

She caught a break with the schedule, which had no World Cup moguls until January.  Kearney needed that time to heal after fracturing two ribs in an October training crash.

"Moguls is a difficult sport and often inconsistent, so to be able to say I won this event eight years ago is a testament to the consistency of my skiing," Kearney said.  "That's something i'm extremely proud of."

Her success has not been without some blips.

After winning her first world title in 2005, Kearney finished a psyche-rattling 22nd at the 2006 Olympics and agonized over it for four years.

Kearney took the World Cup moguls overall lead for the first time this season with a win in the February test event for the 2014 Olympic course in Sochi, Russia.

"It became my epic challenge to battle back for that," she said.

Then she lost control on a slick course in Japan and wound up 23rd in the last race before the World Championships, giving back all but three points of her season lead.

“Now that I've tried 23rd place, I've decided I don't like it,” she said on her Facebook page.

Figure it was a good omen.  Kearney had the worst finish (36th) of her 11 years on the World Cup circuit one month before the 2010 Olympics.

Maybe she should plan on bombing one again some time next January.


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