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Hannah Kearney still dreams of Olympics in retirement

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Hannah Kearney has been having these dreams since she retired from moguls skiing last year. Olympic dreams.

In a recent sleep, Kearney, the 2010 Olympic champion, saw the U.S. earning the right to host a future Winter Games. Inspiration to strap on the skis again?

“Now I’m thinking that would have to be over eight years from now, so I think that’s really, really unlikely,” said Kearney, who turned 30 in February. “I think part of me just doesn’t know what to do.”

Kearney last competed March 27, 2015, winning the U.S. Championships one final time to finish a strong season and a decorated career. From 2004 through 2015, Kearney amassed two Olympic medals, three world titles and a record-tying 46 World Cup wins.

Kearney struggled to decide when to retire, but she moved on quickly after hanging up the skis. Kearney took her name out of the drug-testing pool later that spring — the “official” sign of retirement in Olympic sports — and returned to school.

It took Kearney four years to complete three semesters’ worth of Dartmouth classes while juggling her gold-medal moguls career. She’s now a junior at Westminster College in Utah, a full-time student having just declared her major of marketing.

Earlier this month, Kearney was surrounded by her former teammates in New York City for the U.S. Ski Team’s Gold Medal Gala fundraising event.

Hours earlier, Kearney sat in a Manhattan hair salon chair with a laptop, putting the finishing touches on a financial analysis of Delta versus United for her Finance 300 class.

“It’s due at midnight, so I figured I better get it in before the ski ball starts,” she said.

Kearney is taking five classes this semester plus working a paid marketing-department internship with Promontory, a luxury Park City real estate community. She called it her “first real-world job.”

“It turns out I don’t have a lot of experience with that sort of stuff,” Kearney joked. “It’s the juggling act that all Americans deal with, and I never had to, so I can’t really complain.”

So, where are those Olympic dreams coming from? Well, Kearney is going to the gym three days per week with longtime teammate Jeremy Cota and following his strength program.

“We spend so much time training our bodies, I don’t want to just lose it all instantly [in retirement],” she said. “So I’ve just been trying to maintain.”

Kearney, who once won 16 straight World Cup events, always struggled with pull-ups. She says proudly that she can still do three sets of eight pull-ups, the same benchmark from during her moguls career.

“It was like a mental battle when I was an athlete,” she said. “I do not want to go back to not being able to do pull-ups.”

Kearney skied moguls this past winter, unwillingly, while urged by others in Park City.

“Not warming up and going to the moguls no longer feels good,” she said. “Jumping into a mogul field, it makes me feel as if I never was good at the sport to begin with.”

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Yuzuru Hanyu opens Olympic season with record score

Yuzuru Hanyu
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A sore knee didn’t hold Yuzuru Hanyu back. A record score to open his Olympic season.

The Olympic and world champion from Japan hit a pair of quadruple jumps in his short program at the Autumn Classic, a lower-level event in Montreal.

He was rewarded with 112.72 points, the highest short program score recorded under the 13-year-old judging system. Video is here.

It looked like a home competition for Hanyu.

Upon finishing, he bowed toward one set of bleachers (maybe a dozen rows) at the Sportsplexe Pierrefonds. More than two dozen Japanese flags made it hard to see most of the faces.

He bettered Javier Fernández, a two-time world champion and training partner, by 11.52 points. Fernández also landed two quadruple jumps to tally 101.2.

Full scores will be here upon the conclusion of the short program. The free skate is Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. A live stream is here.

Hanyu now owns the three highest short program scores under the 13-year-old system. The other two were set in the 2015-16 season.

Showdowns like Hanyu-Fernández are usually reserved for, at the earliest, the Grand Prix series in late October and November.

Hanyu and Fernández are very familiar with each other, having shared a coach in Canadian Brian Orser, the 1988 Olympic silver medalist, since 2012. They train in Toronto.

In that time, Hanyu became the first Japanese man to win an Olympic title (and the second teen from any nation to do it). He followed it up with world titles later in 2014 and this year.

Fernández achieved unfathomable success for a Spanish skater — world titles in 2015 and 2016, overtaking Hanyu in the free skate both times.

In PyeongChang, Hanyu can become the first man to repeat as Olympic champion since Dick Button in 1952. Fernández can become the third Spaniard to earn a Winter Olympic medal of any color in any sport, and the first since 1992.

The figure skating season continues next week with Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany, the final Olympic qualifying competition. North Korea could clinch its first spots in any sport for the Olympics in the pairs event.

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USOC letter assures Olympians about South Korea security

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The U.S. Olympic Committee’s security chief sent a letter to potential Winter Olympians saying there are no indications that recent developments between the U.S. and North Korea have compromised security in South Korea.

The letter, obtained by The Associated Press shortly after it was sent Friday, makes no suggestion that the U.S. is considering skipping the PyeongChang Winter Games for security reasons.

But Chief Security Officer Nicole Deal does write that provocations that have been volleyed between the United States and North Korea are likely to persist for the foreseeable future, and “should not be dismissed as insignificant nor feared as precursors of an inevitable conflict.”

The letter comes at the end of a week in which France’s sports minister suggested the country’s athletes would stay home if security could not be guaranteed.

The International Olympic Committee, trying to calm concerns, reiterated that in conversations with high-level officials in China and South Korea, none have expressed doubt about the Winter Games proceeding as scheduled, next February.

The USOC also sent out a public statement Friday from CEO Scott Blackmun.

“We will continue to work with our State Department and local organizers to ensure that our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe,” he said.

The letter, sent to athletes, national governing bodies and other Olympic leaders in the United States, said the USOC’s security division is operating as “business as usual for our security planning and preparations.”

Deal writes that the USOC is reviewing crisis management plans that address a range of potential scenarios “to ensure our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe.”

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