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Finals: Podiums for Kearney, Babic

Daily Staff Report

SAUZE D’OULX, Italy – Hannah Kearney of Norwich, Vt., and David Babic of Washington, Vt., who won their last previous World Cup moguls contests, ended the season Sunday on the podium at World Cup Finals. Kearney closed her first season on the World Cup tour by finishing second with Laurel Shanley of Squaw Valley, Calif., in fourth place while David Babic of Washington, Vt., was third in the men’s event.

Reigning world champion Kari Traa of Norway took the women’s event with 26.14 points but Kearney, who still has to graduate from high school, posted the fastest time (24.62 seconds) and had 25.47 as six U.S. women – including three from Denver – competed in the one-run Finals.

Shanley was fourth at 24.02 with Michelle Roark of Denver sixth, Jillian Vogtli of Ellicotville, N.Y., eighth, Emiko Torito of Denver in ninth and Nor Am moguls champion Ali Levy of Denver placing 11th in the sunny, 35-degree weather, which was in marked contrast to the snow and fog of recent days in Piemonte Region, which will host the skiing and snowboard events of the 2006 Olympics. Sauze d’Oulx is the Olympic freestyle village, but organizers will build a new venue below the hillside town; Finals events were staged above the village.

Heli-X and heli pay off again

Kearney used her signature heli-X off the top jump and a heli off the bottom for her fifth top-3 of the winter as she finished fourth in the standings behind champion Jennifer Heil of Canada.

“It was a similar story to last week (when she won in Airolo, Switzerland) when my heli on the bottom was better than my heli-X on the top. I kinda landed back-seat (leaning back) on the top and it took a couple of turns to get back into it,” Kearney said. “It was really warm and sunny – perfect for competition. Training all week was a little foggy, really socked in. We got a couple of inches of snow overnight, which made the course really nice. It really needed it.”

World Cup champion Janne Lahtela of Finland earned his fifth win of the season with 27.22 points to 25.92 for Pierra-Alexandre Rousseau of Canada. Babic had 25.44 and Nate Roberts of Park City, Utah, was 10th.

Only two U.S. men skied although six had qualified by being in the top 12 of points. The other four are in the USA, nursing injuries. He threw his trademark 720-Sushi roll, an off-axis trick with a double spin, off the top jump and a D-spin 720, a slightly different off-axis double-rotation, off the bottom jump.

Babic drifted to the podium

“I drifted a little bit at landing up-top,” he explained, “So I had to plow through the first moguls. It got me a little mixed up in the middle section, but I was able to cover myself … and then I came in hot to the bottom air and threw this huge D-spin 720, landed way down in the moguls and skied it out. I’m psyched with the way I finished. It was tremendous.”

The one-run format of World Cup Finals meant some changes for the athletes, according to Babic. “I think it’s a bit of a challenge for everyone because we’are all so used to skiing sort of a conservative run to get into finals but here it’s all or nothing. You go big or you don’t score.”

U.S. Head Coach Jeff Wintersteen was pleased with the final performance. “Two podiums at Finals, seven wins by the guys – including five guys winning World Cups during the season – and Luke (Westerlund of Breckenridge) had two seconds, Hannah moving right in on the World Cup with two wins to give us more depth on that side, all good things. This season was a good step forward toward ’06.”

The Chevrolet U.S. Freestyle Championships are scheduled for March 26-28 at California’s Heavenly Mountain Resort on the south shore of Lake Tahoe.

FREESTYLE WORLD CUP

World Cup Finals

Sauze d’Oulx, ITA – March 14

Moguls

Men

1. Janne Lahtela, Finland, 27.22 points

2. P-A Pousseau, Canada, 25.92

3. David Babic, Washington, Vt., 25.44

4. Tapio Luusua, Finland, 24.92

5. Sami Mustonen, Finland, 24.82

10. Nate Roberts, Park City, Utah, 19.19

Women

1. Kari Traa, Norway, 26.14

2. Hannah Kearney, Norwich, Vt., 25.47

3. Margarita Marbler, Austria, 24.75

4. Laurel Shanley, Squaw Valley, Calif., 24.02

5. Jennifer Heil, Canada, 23.89

6. Michelle Roark, Denver, 23.82

8. Jillian Vogtli, Ellicotville, N.Y., 23.59

9. Emiko Torito, Denver, 22.96

11. Ali Levy, Denver, 19.27


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