The injuries took my sport away from me for a couple of months,” Kearney said at the beginning of this season. “Nothing like that to realize you love it and still feel motivated. —Hannah Kearney
PARK CITY — Hannah Kearney’s silver medal in Canada last week ensured the reigning Olympic women’s mogul champion a spot on the 2014 U.S. freestyle Olympic team.
But Kearney didn’t battle back from injuries to earn silver. In October 2012, Kearney lacerated her liver, broke two rips and punctured her lung in a training accident. She returned to competition in January after missing the first two stops on the World Cup circuit. She won six of 10 events and the world championship to prove to everyone that she was back and better than ever.
“The injuries took my sport away from me for a couple of months,” Kearney said at the beginning of this season. “Nothing like that to realize you love it and still feel motivated.”
She said she’s more fit than ever. A fierce competitor who values clean skiing as much as she does the tricks she performs, Kearney won the first World Cup of the season in Ruka, Finland. In that competition, Canada’s Justine Dufour-Lapointe finished second.
Last week in the Calgary World Cup, Dufour-Lapointe won and Kearney was second.
"This was a great reminder that I can be beat, and by someone younger than me," said Kearney of Norwich, Vt. "I've won on this course before, so even though I earned a podium, it's not what I was hoping for.”
Kearney, who’s said this will be her last Olympics, said falling short of her own goals just makes her more determined at the World Cup this weekend at Deer Valley.
"It's motivation and at the same time it's a great feeling knowing that I'm in this position for the Olympics,” Kearney said. “I know I need to be tighter coming out of my bottom air and I'm going to focus on that going into Deer Valley and Lake Placid — two courses I feel confident with.”
Kearney’s silver, while disappointing to her, secured her spot on the U.S. Olympic team. She’s the first freestyle athlete to earn a spot on the team so far.
Meanwhile, Patrick Dineen finished third in Calgary, his first World Cup podium of the season.
“I feel really confident looking towards Deer Valley and Lake Placid, both courses I’ve had a lot of success on,” Dineen said after earning bronze.
The mogul competition is scheduled for Thursday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 7 p.m., with qualifying rounds starting at 3 p.m. both days.
Friday night there will be an aerials competition with qualifying beginning at 11:35 a.m. and semifinals starting at 7 p.m. Finals will be at 7:30 p.m. Fireworks follow all of the competitions.
Athletes say they love competing at Deer Valley, the site of the freestyle event in the 2002 Winter Olympics.
“I couldn’t be more stoked to be back at this amazing event in Deer Valley,” said Dylan Ferguson. “Deer Valley has consistently held some of the best World Cups since I can remember. This World Cup is the highlight of my season, and I can’t wait to throw down some big tricks alongside the rest of the U.S. freestyle ski team in front of my home crowd.”
Three-time Olympian Emily Cook and 2010 Olympian Ashley Caldwell lead the U.S. aerial team. Caldwell finished on the podium in China’s World Cup, and she is one of just three women who can land a quad-twisting triple flip. She’s not sure if she’ll compete with that trick this weekend, but said she’ll go to it if she needs it to win.
“It’s a very hard trick,” she said. “I want to make sure I need it if I go to it.”
While a lot of athletes don’t like the fact that the aerial skiers get one shot at each jump, Caldwell said that’s part of what she loves about the sport.
“Our sport is kind of cool in that, we’re striving for perfection,” she said. “And you’ve got to be on it, that one jump. You get one chance. I think that’s kind of a cool element. It makes it difficult, but that’s also awesome.”
VISA Freestyle International
Thursday — Men’s and Women’s Moguls Qualifications, 3:00 p.m. - 6:15 p.m. MST
Thursday — Men’s and Women’s Moguls Finals, 7:00 - 7:40 p.m. MST
Thursday — Men’s and Women’s Moguls Superfinals, 7:40 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. MST
Friday — Men’s and Women’s Aerials Qualifications, 11:35 a.m. - 3:40 p.m. MST
Friday— Men’s and Women’s Aerials Semifinals, 7:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. MST
Friday — Men’s and Women’s Aerials Finals, 7:30 p.m. - 7:48 p.m. MST
Friday — Men’s and Women’s Aerials Superfinals, 7:48 p.m. - 8:03 p.m. MST
Saturday — Men’s and Women’s Moguls Qualifications, 3:00 p.m. - 5:15 p.m. MST
Saturday — Men’s and Women’s Moguls Finals, 7:00 p.m. - 7:40 p.m. MST
Saturday — Men’s and Women’s Moguls Superfinals, 7:40 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. MST