Sochi, Russia Hannah Kearney admittedly was more nervous before Thursday’s first women’s moguls qualification event than any defending gold medalist should be.
2014 Winter Olympics
For daily updates on the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, including photos and blogs, click here.
But the Vermont skier hadn’t trained well all week. Finally, before the start of Thursday’s event, she changed her line.
New line, same old results.
Kearney was the top qualifier at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, earning herself a shot to become the first freestyle athlete to ever win two Olympic gold medals during the finals Saturday.
“I like (the course), it’s a challenge,” Kearney said. “If you get your feet too far from your body, you’ll get tossed from the course. The moguls are deep. I’m a tall, strong skier, so those things help me get down.”
Canadian sisters Chloe and Justine Dufour-LaPointe were second and third while Steamboat Springs skier and Lowell Whiteman School graduate Eliza Outtrim was fourth.
The top 10 skiers on Thursday advance to Saturday’s finals. Before the finals Saturday, there will be another qualification event during which the 20 skiers who didn’t qualify Thursday will battle for 10 more positions in the finals.
Vail’s Heidi Kloser was carted off the moguls course during practice. She fell a few moguls after the first jump and apparently injured her knee.
American Heather McPhie was 14th. McPhie, though, will have that second chance to get into the finals Saturday.
If she gets through the finals and all the way to super finals, it’s possible McPhie will ski four competition runs in one day.
“I wish I had done a little bit better,” she said. “It’s nice I’m not out, and I get to ski again.”
The most exciting result, however, came from Outtrim. After narrowly making the U.S. Team on the fourth tiebreaker, Outtrim was first out of the gates Thursday.
She made the most of the course, holding her position all night until Kearney and the Dufour-LaPointe sisters — the top three ranked moguls skiers in the world — came down.
Considering the course was slower for Outtrim’s run, she said she’s excited for what Saturday will bring.
“I’ve really been skiing well on this course,” she said.
To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229, email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @LukeGraham