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.”
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