Vermont’s Kearney basking as Olympic champion | SteamboatToday.com

Vermont’s Kearney basking as Olympic champion

First U.S. gold medalist of 2010 games has been on a sleepless schedule

Luke Graham

— Of all the benefits of being a gold medalist, Vermont's Hannah Kearney has found that sleep isn't one of them.

Kearney, who has been on a whirlwind tour after winning the United States' first gold medal of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games on Saturday in women's moguls, said she didn't sleep at all Sat­urday and slept just two hours Sunday.

Finally on Monday, Kearney was able to get a full eight hours of sleep.

"It's been a lot of chatting," Kearney said via phone Tuesday while walking to the U.S. men's opening hockey game in Vancouver, British Columbia. "I've gotten a lot of attention and congratulations."

Rightfully so.

Four years ago at the Winter Olympic Games, Kearney was a 19-year-old with expectations for gold. A slip on her run left her crying at the bottom.

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But the past four years, Kearney has been on a mission. She came into Saturday's competition as the favorite behind Canada's Jennifer Heil. Heil was the defending gold medalist and hoped to win Canada's first gold medal on home soil.

Kearney, however, was first in the qualification round and was last to go in the finals. Heil had skied a great run right before Kearney and was in first place.

But Kearney, who earned her spot on the Olympic team by qualifying at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in December in Steamboat Springs, said it just felt right at the top of the course.

"It felt like it was going happen," she said. "I know you can easily make a mistake right now, but I didn't feel like that would happen. It felt like it was right and it was time."

A mere 27 seconds later, Kearney stood at the bottom knowing the judges has rewarded her for a solid first run and thinking she'd done enough to win.

But it's a judged sport, and Kearney knows funny things can happen. When her score flashed up on the big screen, Kearney — sporting pigtails out the back of her helmet — was an Olympic champion.

Kearney was presented her medal Sunday night in Vancouver. She said she didn't expect it to be a big deal, but more than 20,000 people flooded in.

It was tough to keep her emotions intact, and tears welled up her eyes.

"I didn't think I'd cry. I thought I'd just be happy," she said. "But when I got there, I absolutely couldn't control it."

Kearney plans to head back to Vermont on Feb. 23. With all the media requests and hoopla surrounding America's first gold medalist of these games, Kearney said she'd skip the first World Cup when she gets back so she can catch up with family and friends.

She's unsure what she's going to do with her medal but said her dad is a carpenter and might be able to help.

"That's a good question," she said. "Hopefully my dad can build something to hang it on that can also be removed."

Kearney's not done yet, however. She said the plan is to make the 2014 games in Russia.

Until then and for the next couple of months, Kearney will have a spring training of her own.

She found out Tuesday that she'd be throwing out the first pitch for the Boston Red Sox on Opening Day.

"Unfortunately," the right-hander and gold medalist said, "I throw like a girl."

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