Kearney takes Olympic gold in moguls |

Kearney takes Olympic gold in moguls

America's Shannon Bahrke earns bronze, retires after event

Luke Graham

Hannah Kearney

— Years ago, when American moguls skier Hannah Kearney finished 22nd at the 2006 Olympics, there was a lot more in her average day.

Leading up to those Olym­pics, Kearney was a regular student trying to do extraordinary things. She was an all-state soccer player in Vermont and trying to be an Average Jane.

It was a tough balance, trying to live the normal life of a high-schooler while trying to train to be the best freestyle moguls skier in the world.

Kearney, however, has spent the past four years as hell on skis. She's been dedicated and focused.

Sure, she still has the pigtails flapping out of the back of her helmet, wears the same smile and comes off as that same old Average Jane.

But Saturday evening at Cypress Mountain in British Columbia, Kearney ditched the Average Jane thing and became Wonder Woman on skis.

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The 23-year-old, just 12 days shy of her 24th birthday, won Olympic gold with a score of 26.63, becoming the first American to win a gold medal in women's moguls since Donna Weinbrecht at the 1992 Olym­pics in Albertville, France.

Favorite and 2006 gold medalist Jennifer Heil won the silver with a score of 25.69, and American and 2002 silver medalist Shannon Bahrke won the bronze, scoring 25.43.

"I wanted that gold medal just as much as (Heil) did," Kearney said, rain pouring sideways. "It's mogul skiing. It's one day, and anything can happen. You have this competition tomorrow and there is no guarantee I win it. But I did."

Kearney, who was first in qualifications, was the 20th skier to go in the finals. Heil, who had the support of most of her home nation crowd, put down a fast and slick run.

But Kearney posted the fastest run down the moguls course, and her turn score and air score were higher than Heil's. She did a back layout at the top jump and a helicopter at the bottom air.

"I was thinking, 'I want this medal,'" Kearney said. "I heard Jen's score and the roar of the crowd and I just went for it."

Heil was looking to become the first moguls skier to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals. Although the Canadian was upset, she acknowledged that Kearney was the skier to beat.

"It's such a fierce competition," she said. "Every time you click into your bindings, it's so competitive. I love that the other girls pushed me to do my best, and today Hannah was the best."

For Bahrke, the bronze medal meant more to her than her silver in 2002. Bahrke retired after Saturday's competition.

"It's a lot sweeter because I overcame a lot to get here," she said. "It's been a bumpy ride. It's taken a lot of people and prep to get here. It means the world to me."

America's other two skiers, Heather McPhie and Michelle Roark, each fell in their finals runs.

Roark fell after her 720-degree trick off the first air sent her too far down and finished 17th. McPhie was skiing well and fell on the second air, finishing 18th.

"I always go for it," said Roark, who has a degree from the Colorado School of Mines and calls Denver home. "I'm certainly a fighter. That's one of the reasons I've stayed in this the last four years."

Moguls skiing continues today with the men's event. Qualification begins at 3:30 p.m. with finals to follow at 6:30 p.m.

Olympic TV schedule

NBC, Channel 9 in Steamboat Springs

■ Midnight to 3:30 a.m.: Replays of 1,500-meter short track and women’s moguls

■ Noon to 5 p.m.: Nordic combined, luge, speed skating and biathlon. Nordic combined ski jumping starts at 1 p.m., biathlon is at 2:15, luge and the women’s 3,000-meter speed skating are at 4 p.m., and Nordic combined individual cross-country is at 4:45 p.m.

■ 6 to 10 p.m.: Figure skating begins, plus luge and freestyle skiing

■ 10:30 to 11 p.m.: Pairs short program in figure skating and the medal ceremony for speed skating

■ 11 p.m. today to 3 a.m. Monday: Pairs figure skating, luge and freestyle skiing

USA, Channel 48 on Comcast in Steamboat

■ 1 to 3:30 p.m.: Women’s hockey, U.S. vs. China

Top 10 women’s moguls finishers

  1. Hannah Kearney 26.63
  2. Jennifer Heil 25.69
  3. Shannon Bahrke 25.43
  4. Aiko Uemura 24.68
  5. Chloe Dufour-Lapointe 23.87
  6. Margarita Marbler 23.69
  7. Ekaterina Stolyarova 23.55
  8. Arisa Murata 23.22
  9. Regina Rakhimova 22.70
  10. Deborah Scanzio 22.70
  11. Michelle Roark 15.90
  12. Heather McPhie 14.52