Hannah Kearney hesitant to make retirement announcement

Hannah Kearney
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The 2010 Olympic moguls champion Hannah Kearney will try to tie a U.S. legend’s record for career World Cup victories Sunday, in what many say will be the final international competition of Kearney’s career.

But not Kearney. It will probably be her final World Cup, but she’s keeping her options open.

“I’ve learned that it’s hard to make announcements in a sport you love,” Kearney said in a phone interview this week, before leaving Vermont for Megeve in the French Alps. “Then it gets here, and you start panicking, and you have Brett Favre moments. That’s the reason I’m hesitant.”

Kearney, 29, is arguably the greatest moguls skier of all time and definitely in any Mount Rushmore discussion. Last year, she said that this season would be her last.

She owns Olympic gold from Vancouver and bronze from Sochi, eight World Championships medals (including three golds) and 45 World Cup victories.

Only one moguls skier — man or woman — owns more than 45 World Cup wins. That’s the first Olympic moguls champion from 1992, New Jersey’s Donna Weinbrecht. Weinbrecht had 46 wins.

Kearney, who once won 16 straight World Cup moguls or dual moguls events, could cap her career by matching Weinbrecht’s record in Megeve on Sunday. She’s the favorite, having already clinched her fifth straight World Cup season title.

“Tying Donna would be the perfect compromise because who wants to beat Donna Weinbrecht?” Kearney said. “It’s not even fair. I had more World Cup starts than her.”

Kearney, whose World Cup debut came in 2003, will compete for the 117th time on Sunday. Weinbrecht had 112 starts from 1988 through 2002.

Their paths have crossed at the 2010 Olympics, when Weinbrecht reported on Kearney for Yahoo! Sports, at Killington, Vt., youth ski clinics, and, for the first time, at a 2002 U.S. Ski Team camp at Lake Powell, Utah.

“I remember her sitting there with her school books,” Weinbrecht says now.

Weinbrecht was 37 years old. Kearney was 16 and attending her very first U.S. team camp. Kearney studied English while other of-age team members celebrated the end of the season on a houseboat. It marked Weinbrecht’s final season.

“[Weinbrecht] was walking around with her large envelope of MRIs,” Kearney said. “I remember saying, ‘Oh, gosh.’ When you’re 16, you’re not thinking about MRIs. I’ve had a handful now, and I get it.”

Kearney’s ensuing decorated career included painful bumps, from tearfully washing out in qualifying as a medal favorite at Torino 2006 to many injuries.

They included a torn ACL, concussion, two broken ribs, lacerated liver, a punctured lung and, in July, a left knee arthroscopy following a torn meniscus that made her question coming back at all after Sochi.

“I need to move on,” Kearney said last fall. “In order to accomplish anything else in my life, I’ve got to start doing it now.”

Kearney plans to race at the U.S. Championships later in March, rest in April and take classes at Utah’s Westminster College starting in May.

“The last time I went to school, it certainly makes you want to continue to be an athlete,” Kearney said this week. “It turns out that homework and studying isn’t nearly as fun as training and competing.”

If Kearney wins Sunday and never competes internationally again, she will follow a similar exit as the biggest rival during her career, Canadian Jenn Heil.

Heil won the 2006 Olympic title but was unable to repeat in Vancouver in 2010, when home fans hoped she would become the first Canadian Olympic gold medalist ever on home soil.

But Heil upset Kearney at the 2011 World Championships, in the Canadian’s final season.

Kearney, after settling for bronze at the 2014 Olympics, said she saw Heil in the Sochi airport.

“I get it, that’s not as fun as winning,” Kearney recalled telling Heil.

Heil gave her a knowing look.

Weinbrecht quit after the Nagano 1998 Winter Games but, urged by 1994 Olympic silver medalist Liz McIntyre, came back in her mid-30s to make a run for the 2002 Olympics. She missed that team but didn’t regret it.

“I know if I sat on the couch, the competitor that I am, I would’ve, could’ve wondered,” Weinbrecht said.

Kearney has a similar disposition.

“It’s all for the competition,” she said. “That’s what I’ve lived for.”

So she’s concerned about how she will replace moguls.

“I’ll have to join a CrossFit league,” Kearney joked.

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U.S., China set for FIBA Women’s World Cup gold-medal game

FIBA Women's World Cup Basketball
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SYDNEY — Breanna Stewart and the United States used a dominant defensive effort to beat Canada and reach the gold-medal game of the FIBA Women’s World Cup for the fourth consecutive tournament.

Stewart scored 17 points and the Americans raced out to an early lead to put away Canada 83-43 on Friday, reaching a Saturday gold-medal game with China. The 43 points was the fewest scored in a semifinal game in World Cup history.

“Canada has been playing really well all tournament and the goal was just to come out there and really limit them,” said U.S. forward Alyssa Thomas. “We were really locked in from the jump with our game plan.”

China edged host Australia 61-59 in the later semifinal to reach its first global championship game since the 1994 Worlds, the last time it won a medal of any color. The U.S. beat China 77-63 in group play last Saturday, the Americans’ closest game of the tournament.

“Our goal was to to win a gold medal and we’re in position to do that,” U.S. coach Cheryl Reeve said.

The U.S. (7-0), which is on a record pace for points and margin of victory in the tournament, took control of the game early scoring the first 15 points. The Americans contested every shot on the defensive end as the Canadians missed their first nine attempts from the field. On the offensive end, Stewart, A’ja Wilson and Thomas basically got any shot they wanted.

“I think after that punch, it really took the air out of them,” Thomas said. “They didn’t know what to do with their offense anymore after that.”

MORE: FIBA World Cup Schedule, Results

Laeticia Amihere, who plays at South Carolina for former U.S. coach Dawn Staley, finally got Canada on the board nearly 5 minutes into the game making a driving layup.

By the end of the quarter the U.S. led 27-7. Canada had committed four turnovers — the same number the team had against Puerto Rico in the quarterfinals which was the lowest total in a game in 30 years.

The Americans were up 45-21 at the half and the lead kept expanding in the final 20 minutes. The win was the biggest margin for the U.S. in the medal round topping the 36-point victory over Spain in the 2010 World Cup.

Canada (5-2) advanced to the medal round for the first time since 1986 and has a chance to win its first medal since taking the bronze that year.

“We didn’t get it done today, but what we’re going to do is take this with what we learned today and how we can turn it up tomorrow,” Canada captain Natalie Achonwa said. “It’s still a game for a medal and it’s just as important for us.”

The U.S. has won seven of the eight meetings with Canada in the World Cup, although the last one came in 2010. The lone victory for Canada came in 1975.

The victory was the 29th in a row in World Cup play for the Americans, who haven’t lost since the 2006 semifinals against Russia. The Soviet Union holds the World Cup record with 56 straight wins from 1959-86. This is only the second time in the Americans’ storied history they’ve reached four consecutive gold-medal contests. They also did it from 1979-90, winning three times.

This U.S. team, which has so many new faces on it, is on pace to break many of the team’s records that include scoring margin and points per game. The Americans also continued to dominate the paint even without 6-foot-8 Brittney Griner, outscoring its opponents by an average of 55-24.

Amihere led Canada with eight points.

RECORD BREAKING

The low point total broke the mark of 53 that South Korea scored against Russia in 2002.

“We’re starting to build that identity,” Wilson said of the defensive effort. “We’re quick and scrappy and I think that’s our identity.”

The U.S. is averaging 101 points a game. The team’s best mark ever coming into the tournament was 99.1 set in 1994.

STILL RECOVERING

Kahleah Copper sat out after injuring her left hip in the win over Serbia in the quarterfinals. Copper landed hard on her hip driving to the basket and had to be helped off the court. She hopes to play on Saturday. Betnijah Laney, who also got hurt in the Serbia game, did play against Canada.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup schedule, results

FIBA Women's World Cup
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The U.S. goes for its fourth consecutive title at the FIBA World Cup in Sydney — and eighth global gold in a row overall when including the Olympics.

A’ja Wilson, a two-time WNBA MVP, and Breanna Stewart, the Tokyo Olympic MVP, headline a U.S. roster that, for the first time since 2000, includes neither Sue Bird (retired) nor Diana Taurasi (injured).

The new-look team includes nobody over the age of 30 for the first time since 1994, before the U.S. began its dynasty at the 1996 Atlanta Games. The Americans have won 52 consecutive games between worlds and the Olympics dating to the 2006 Worlds bronze-medal game.

The field also includes host Australia, the U.S.’ former primary rival, and Olympic silver medalist Japan.

Nigeria, which played the U.S. the closest of any foe in Tokyo (losing by nine points), isn’t present after its federation withdrew the team over governance issues. Spain, ranked second in the world, failed to qualify.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup Schedule, Results

Date Time (ET) Game Round
Wed., Sept. 21 8:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 82, Bosnia and Herzegovina 58 Group A
9:30 p.m. USA 87, Belgium 72 Group A
11 p.m. Canada 67, Serbia 60 Group B
Thurs., Sept. 22 12 a.m. Japan 89, Mali 56 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 107, South Korea 44 Group A
6:30 a.m. France 70, Australia 57 Group B
8:30 p.m. USA 106, Puerto Rico 42 Group A
10 p.m. Serbia 69, Japan 64 Group B
11 p.m. Belgium 84, South Korea 61 Group A
Fri., Sept. 23 12:30 a.m. China 98, Bosnia and Herzegovina 51 Group A
4 a.m. Canada 59, France 45 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 118, Mali 58 Group B
Sat., Sept. 24 12:30 a.m. USA 77, China 63 Group A
4 a.m. South Korea 99, Bosnia and Herzegovina 66 Group A
6:30 a.m. Belgium 68, Puerto Rico 65 Group A
Sun., Sept. 25 12:30 a.m. France 74, Mali 59 Group B
4 a.m. Australia 69, Serbia 54 Group B
6:30 a.m. Canada 70, Japan 56 Group B
9:30 p.m. Belgium 85, Bosnia and Herzegovina 55 Group A
11:30 p.m. Serbia 81, Mali 68 Group B
Mon., Sept. 26 12 a.m. USA 145, South Korea 69 Group A
2 a.m. France 67, Japan 53 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 95, Puerto Rico 60 Group A
6:30 a.m. Australia 75, Canada 72 Group B
9:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 92, South Korea 73 Group A
11:30 p.m. China 81, Belgium 55 Group A
Tues., Sept. 27 12 a.m. USA 121, Bosnia and Herzegovina 59 Group A
2 a.m. Canada 88, Mali 65 Group B
3:30 a.m. Serbia 68, France 62 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 71, Japan 54 Group B
Wed., Sept. 28 10 p.m. USA 88, Serbia 55 Quarterfinals
Thurs., Sept. 29 12:30 a.m. Canada 79, Puerto Rico 60 Quarterfinals
4 a.m. China 85, France 71 Quarterfinals
6:30 a.m. Australia 86, Belgium 69 Quarterfinals
Fri., Sept. 30 3 a.m. USA 83, Canada 43 Semifinals
5:30 a.m. China 61, Australia 59 Semifinals
11 p.m. Australia vs. Canada Third-Place Game
Sat., Oct. 1 2 a.m. USA vs. China Gold-Medal Game