Kearney leads US moguls sweep at freestyle World Cup
AP Sports Writer
WILMINGTON, N.Y. – It was a performance worth losing sleep over.
Hannah Kearney led an American sweep of the top four places in a World Cup moguls event at Whiteface Mountain on Thursday, besting teammates Shannon Bahrke, Heather McPhie and Michelle Roark on a picture-perfect Adirondack Mountain afternoon.
“I couldn’t sleep last night, I was so nervous. I had a steak for dinner and it just sat there all night,” said Kearney, who won the U.S. Olympic trials in December to earn her second trip to the Winter Games. “It was really hard, for sure.”
Kearney made it look easy.
Skiing last, she landed a splendid 360 helicopter in winning the one-run event, where scoring is based on speed, style while skiing the course and through two airborne turns, and time. Kearney finished with a score of 25.13, Bahrke had 24.96, McPhie 24.08, and Roark 24.05.
Kearney moved to third in World Cup points behind McPhie and overall leader and reigning Olympic champion Jennifer Heil of Canada, who did not compete at Whiteface.
Though the U.S. team won’t be officially selected until Tuesday in Park City, Utah, Bahrke and Roark likely have earned the final two slots after besting teammates Laurel Shanley and Shelly Robertson at Whiteface.
“Gravy, but crucial gravy. My confidence was a bit shaken the last couple of weeks,” said Bahrke, now fourth in the World Cup standings. “I’ve had some ups and downs. My head hasn’t been in the right place. I haven’t felt nerves. Today, I felt those nerves and that adrenaline, and it felt good. I used it to my advantage. It was important to lift my spirits going into the Games.”
Roark, who qualified for the Olympics in 2006 with a win at Deer Valley, was third there last week to put herself in strong position to lock up a spot here in the final pre-Olympics event.
“I’ve been on the bubble for the last couple of weeks, so I was just trying to put it all out there,” Roark said.
So, too, were Shanley and Robertson, who finished seventh and eighth, respectively.
“We’re all really close. This year has been a little bit tougher just because we are so tight,” Kearney said. “You’re cheering for your teammates, but at the same time it’s all about you, you fulfilling that dream.”
“It was really close,” Bahrke said. “The people that are going are the people that would have gone regardless of this competition. There were no upsets, but you can empathize with your teammates. Their dreams are crushed. It’s what you work for and today is the day to decide their fate. It’s really hard to watch.”
Michael Morse left the mountain feeling good. Morse placed fifth behind winner Guilbaut Colas of France in the men’s competition. Colas finished with a score of 26.51, followed by World Cup leader Dale Begg-Smith of Australia (25.95), Jesper Bjoernlund of Sweden (25.44) and Alexandre Bilodeau of Canada (24.90).
The finish for Morse, who missed fourth by .01, was his best of the season, moved him to sixth in World Cup points, and pretty much locked up the 29-year-old’s first Olympic berth.
“Coming into this week I was just trying to stay calm, stick to what I had to do,” Morse said. “I had confidence inside that I could do my best, but it was certainly hectic, scary. I knew it was a possibility. I tried to block it out of my head.
“It’s my best of the year. It’s a jumping-off point. I am pretty old compared to these guys running around here, but I’m having the best time of my life.”
Jeremy Cota, vying with Morse for a spot on the team, crashed at the top of the course to end his Olympic dream.
“I went for it. It was close,” Cota said. “I’m a little sore, but I’m happy I went for it. I knew it was over, but at least I can say I went down trying.”