America’s Hannah Kearney can’t repeat in moguls at Sochi
February 8, 2014
Sochi, Russia — Hannah Kearney's tears reflected off the icy base of Rosa Khutor Extreme Park's mogul course.
The most dominant women's freestyle skier stood there in disbelief, distraught at letting history slip past her trademark pigtails.
As she got up on the podium for the flower ceremony, she put her hands up and mouthed, "I'm sorry," to her parents.
Kearney wasn't golden on Saturday in Krasnaya Polyana, a slip in the bumps right after the first jump relegating her to bronze.
Canadian Justine Dufour-Lapointe won gold, while sister Chloe took silver. Steamboat Springs' Eliza Outtrim was sixth.
"As you can hear in my voice, it's really hard," an emotional Kearney said afterward. "No one in life wants the best part of their career to be behind them. Unfortunately, that's what it feels like right now that I was at my best in the past."
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Kearney, the prohibitive favorite, was trying to become the first freestyle athlete to win two gold medals. She had won just about everything the sport had to offer and was the undisputed best in the world since four years ago in Vancouver.
But it never seemed like Kearney could gain traction in Russia.
In qualifying Thursday, Kearney wrangled with the line she would take. After changing to the skier’s left line, she still never looked comfortable.
In her first run Saturday, the same mogul that doomed her in the superfinal grabbed her skis and had the tips cross. Kearney was able to ski out of that, eventually qualifying for the first finals in seventh.
"They were deep moguls, which I like," she said. "I feel like they suit me, but you have to hit the insides of them; otherwise, you get thrown out the course."
It looked like Kearney had gotten it back on track with a slick second run, qualifying first in the six-woman superfinal.
Outtrim, who skied well all week, had several bobbles in the middle section, which ate up skiers all Saturday night.
The Dufour-Lapointe sisters each put down slick runs in the finals, setting up Kearney in the same spot as four years ago.
As the last to go, gold was hers to lose.
"I really gave it away, is what it felt like," Kearney said. "It was mine to ski for, and I did try my best. The only positive I can see is I didn't lose because I was too conservative or being complacent and (thinking), ‘Oh, they'll just give me the gold medal if I make it down.' I pushed, (and) there was one huge turn that got me."
It was also an emotional night for the Canadian sisters. The pair are the first sisters to go 1-2 in the Olympics since 1992, when Doris and Angelika Neuners do so in luge.
“Like Justine says, it was a big day, and it was a day that we have been expecting for four years," Chloe Dufour-Lapointe said.
The sisters locked hands to get on the podium while their parents were screaming with joy. Eventually, Justine grabbed the Canadian flag, ran over, navigated her way through the media and embraced her parents.
"Being the first gold medalist for Canada, it's great," said Justine, who along with her sister currently sits fourth in the Sochi medal count. "I'll embrace that moment forever."