Hannah Kearney

Hannah Kearney wins World Cup moguls opener (video)

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Hannah Kearney has a full season to prepare for the Olympics after suffering serious injuries in October 2012. She’s not wasting time.

The 2010 Olympic moguls champion won the season-opening World Cup event in Ruka, Finland, on Saturday. Kearney, 27, scored 25.07 points to win by 1.17 over Canada’s Justine Dufour-Lapointe.

Canadian Mikael Kingsbury won the men’s event, edging countryman and 2010 Olympic champion Alexandre Bilodeau.

Kearney, who said Sochi will be her last Olympics, is attempting to become the first freestyle skier to win multiple Olympic gold medals. She won 16 straight moguls or dual moguls World Cups from January 2011 to February 2012.

In October 2012, she lacerated a liver, broke two ribs and punctured a lung in a training crash. She returned to the World Cup circuit in January 2013, missing two stops, and won six of 10 events and the World Championship to close last season.

“[The injuries] took my sport away from me for a couple months,” Kearney said before this season. “Nothing like that to realize you love it and still feel motivated. I feel like I’m back and stronger than ever now.”

She said she feels different than going into the 2010 Olympics, when she was the underdog to 2006 Olympic champion Jenn Heil of Canada, who has since retired.

“I failed in the previous Olympics [in 2006], so I had nothing to lose,” said Kearney, who infamously splashed out in qualifying in Torino. “This is more pressure in the sense that the media expects more from you. Other competitors expect things from you. I expect things from myself, but, luckily, pressure is a made-up thing that’s in your mind.”

Ruka Moguls
1. Hannah Kearney (USA) 25.07
2. Justine Dufour-Lapointe (CAN) 23.90
3. Aiko Uemura (JPN) 23.69
7. Heather McPhie (USA) 23.00
11. Eliza Outtrim (USA) 22.16
13. Heidi Kloser (USA) 21.99
18. K.C. Oakley (USA) 20.39
19. Mikaela Matthews (USA) 19.82

1. Mikael Kingsbury (CAN) 26.93
2. Alexandre Bilodeau (CAN) 26.54
3. Sho Endo (JPN) 25.24
6. Patrick Deneen (USA)
9. Bradley Wilson (USA) 23.63
11. Joe Discoe (USA) 23.35
13. Dylan Walczyk (USA) 22.98
26. Sho Kashima (USA) 21.87
DNF. Bryon Wilson (USA)
DNF. Jeremy Cota (USA)

Star U.S. freeskier tears meniscus, Olympics in doubt

Katie Ledecky beaten in NCAA Championships individual medley

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Katie Ledecky lost an NCAA Championships race for the first time in eight career finals, taking second in the 400-yard individual medley on Friday.

Stanford teammate Ella Eastin easily beat Ledecky by 3.69 seconds and grabbed the American and NCAA records from Ledecky, too. Eastin’s 3:54.60 is 1.93 seconds faster than Ledecky’s time from the Pac-12 Championships last month.

How did she do it?

“Honestly, I don’t know,” Eastin said on ESPNU. “I’ve built a lot of endurance this year, and it really showed.”

Eastin is decorated in her own right. She three-peated as NCAA 400-yard IM champion and held the American record in the event before Ledecky lowered it last month.

Eastin would have made the 2017 World Championships team had she not been disqualified for an illegal turn after finishing in second place at nationals.

Ledecky, a sophomore, has never contested the 400m IM at a U.S. Championships, Olympics or world championships, nor did she race the 400-yard IM at 2017 NCAAs. She raced the 400 IM instead of the 200 freestyle on Friday.

All of Ledecky’s races at major meets before Friday were in freestyle events. Her only defeat in a major international meet individual final was the 200m freestyle at 2017 Worlds.

Ledecky won five NCAA titles last year and the last two nights anchored the 800-yard freestyle relay and captured the 500-yard freestyle by eight seconds.

Meet results are here.

Later Friday, Lilly King of Indiana three-peated in the 100-yard breaststroke, breaking her American and NCAA records and winning in 56.25 seconds. King is also the Olympic and world champion in the 100m breast, plus the world-record holder.

“Always excited to get the record, but was really hoping to break 56 today,” King said.

Louisville’s Mallory Comerford became the second woman after Missy Franklin to break 1:40 in the 200-yard freestyle, winning in 1:39.80. Co-Olympic 100m free champ Simone Manuel of Stanford was third. Comerford and Ledecky tied for the 2017 NCAA 200 free title.

Stanford’s Ally Howe won the 100-yard backstroke in 49.70, one hundredth shy of her NCAA and American records. Olympic 100m backstroke silver medalist Kathleen Baker of Cal-Berkeley was third.

NCAAs conclude Saturday. Ledecky swims the 1,650-yard freestyle. She is the overwhelming favorite, having gone 35 seconds faster than anyone this season.

Ledecky hasn’t discussed with Stanford whether she will return for her junior season or turn pro, according to the school.

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World vault champion out for all of 2018

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Maria Paseka, a two-time world vault champion and four-time Olympic medalist, said she is out for the rest of the year after December back surgery, according to Russian news agency TASS.

Paseka, 22, earned the lone Russian title at worlds in October, repeating as champion on vault by edging American Jade Carey by .084. She handed Simone Biles her only defeat in a 2015 Worlds final, also on vault.

Paseka also took vault silver and bronze medals at the last two Olympics, as well as helping Russia to team silvers in London and Rio.

As Paseka is sidelined, Russia’s two other recent headliners are on the comeback trail.

Viktoria Komova, the all-around silver medalist at the 2011 Worlds and 2012 Olympics who missed Rio due to a back injury, competed in December for the first time since 2015.

Aliya Mustafina, a seven-time Olympic medalist with two uneven bars golds, is expected to return to competition this spring from June childbirth.

The world championships are in Doha in October.

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