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Kearney Wins 4th Straight World Cup Title

Hannah Kearney finishes first in the women's Moguls World Cup Freestyle Skiing event, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013, in Wilmington, N.Y. (AP Photo/John DiGiacomo)

Hannah Kearney finishes first in the women's Moguls World Cup Freestyle Skiing event, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013, in Wilmington, N.Y. (AP Photo/John DiGiacomo)

La Plagne, France — The tightest World Cup moguls campaign of her career ended in championship fashion for Norwich’s Hannah Kearney in the French Alps on Friday.

Nursing a five-point lead on her sole rival for season discipline honors, Kearney prevailed in a season-ending women’s dual moguls event at the La Plagne resort. The Sochi Olympics bronze medalist defeated Canada’s Chloe Dufour-Lapointe in the big final, 23-12, to clinch her fourth straight World Cup moguls title and fifth of her career.

Kearney needed to beat out Dufour-Lapointe’s younger sister, Justine, to again be the best on the bumps. Any hopes for a head-to-head final showdown evaporated when Justine Dufour-Lapointe — the Olympic gold medalist in Russia last month and Kearney’s only winter-long challenger — crashed in her round-of-16 matchup with France’s Perrine Laffont.

The victory also secured Kearney’s third career World Cup overall freestyle championship. The Hanover High School graduate and Dartmouth College freshman edged Chinese aerialist Li Nina for that honor.

“The globe always represents a season-long battle, but this season it definitely means more,” Kearney said in a U.S. Ski Team news release. “It almost helps with the disappointment of the Olympics. It’s definitely a wonderful reward for what was an emotional season.

“The title has never been this close; it’s never come down to the final competition. I actually had a nightmare a few nights ago that I lost, so I’m glad that did not come true.”

Kearney moved into a 750-745 points lead on Justine Dufour-Lapointe with a duals win on Sunday at Voss-Myrkdalen, Norway. The only skiers in position to win the moguls crystal globe qualified for knockouts first and second, and a winner-take-all championship awaited if both could navigate through three rounds of head-to-head competition.

Getting a first-round bye, Kearney beat Norway’s Hedvig Wessel, 28-7, to advance to the quarterfinals. Dufour-Lapointe didn’t follow suit, wiping out against Laffont to guarantee Kearney her latest discipline title.

Kearney marched to the event victory from there, beating American Sophie Schwartz (22-13) in the quarterfinals and a third Dufour-Lapointe sister, Maxime, in the semifinals (28-9). Kearney finished with an 850-774 points margin on Justine Dufour-Lapointe in the discipline title race.

“I blew my knee out here in 2007, and I lost my first dual here in 2009, so this course hasn’t been that lucky for me,” Kearney said.

“It was nice to be able to undo that. I also had my whole family here, so that made it all the more meaningful.”

Kearney and the youngest Dufour-Lapointe swapped the discipline lead throughout the second half of the season. The Canadian took the point when Kearney sustained the first did-not-finish of her career in Japan on March 1; the lead changed hands 24 hours later and two more times after that, with Kearney taking it for good in Norway last weekend.

“My overall feeling of the season was incredibly frustrating,” admitted Kearney, who has retired from Olympic competition but has left open the possibility of another World Cup title defense next winter. “I spent a lot of time trying to figure out why I was no longer as consistent as I’ve been in the past.

“Obviously, the Olympics were a heartbreaker, but I’ve been able to enjoy many other parts of the season. I’m also planning what I’m going to do next. I still may ski another season, but retirement is around the corner. Luckily, class starts on Monday, so I’m heading back to pick up some textbooks.”

Kearney won six of the 11 stops on the FIS moguls tour this season. The 28-year-old now has 42 World Cup wins and 63 podiums in 108 starts on her career.