Teenager earns ticket to games with freestyle win
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS Hannah Kearney woke up before her alarm went off Friday. It was as if she knew she would accomplish one big goal while she’s still a teenager: a trip to the Winter Olympics.The 19-year-old from Vermont will turn 20 on Feb. 26, a few days after competing in the Olympic moguls event, an opportunity she clinched Friday when she won the U.S. Olympic qualifier in Steamboat Springs.Then again, Kearney has done a few other things in her youth. Last season, she was the world moguls champion. She won the first World Cup moguls event earlier this month in Tignes, France. It was her 10th World Cup podium to date.
After a shaky qualifying run and equally inconsistent runs before the final, Kearney put down a fast, tidy run with a helicopter and iron cross off the first jump and a huge back flip iron cross to finish off. She was given a score of 26.66 points, just scraping by New York’s Jillian Vogtl (26.40) and Shelly Robertson (26.37) of Squaw Valley, Calif.”My first run was bad. Training between runs was bad. Waiting (for other competitors to finish) was the most nervous I’ve ever been in my life,” Kearney said. “I skied a slow, conservative run, but it was solid. It was really clean, and I think that’s what won it for me.”Kearney, who would have almost assuredly made the Olympic team anyway with her World Cup win in France, was very excited about her win Friday. Still, she said, she doesn’t enjoy competing against her teammates.
“I don’t really like it,” she said. “It’s weird. I’d much rather compete in a World Cup. First of all, there’s less of us. You know everyone. I’m glad to only do it every four years. Of course there is (resentment). I’m not going to lie about that. There are some people, I’m sure, who are happy for me, and some are pissed. But to be able to compete against all your teammates and win is a great feeling … And undisputed.”While the women’s field was in no way shy of talent Friday with 2002 Olympic silver medalist and six-time World Cup winner Shannon Bahrke in the line up as well as Winter Park phenom Michelle Roark, U.S. Freestyle Team head coach Jeff Wintersteen said that when Kearney has her game on, there’s only one winner.”The only one that really competes against Hannah is Hannah,” Wintersteen said. “When Hannah skis well, I think she’s the best (female) skier in the world.”
Shauna Farnell can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14632, or at email@example.comVail, Colorado