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Norwich’s Kearney Has Sights Set on Sochi

United States' Hannah Kearney, left, who finished in third place, high-fives teammate Heidi Kloser, who finished in second, after the women's freestyle World Cup moguls event on Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014, in Wilmington, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

United States' Hannah Kearney, left, who finished in third place, high-fives teammate Heidi Kloser, who finished in second, after the women's freestyle World Cup moguls event on Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014, in Wilmington, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

Wilmington, n.y. — In a testament to her skill, Norwich’s Hannah Kearney still landed on the podium in third place at the Lake Placid World Cup moguls event, despite a bobble in the women’s super final.

“My feet just got away from me,” Kearney said. “I slid into the first turn after the first jump, which then shot my feet. It’s disappointing.”

On a course softened by Tuesday’s rain and warm temperatures, Kearney, 27, recovered quickly without skiing off course and finished with a score of 23.13. Her uncharacteristic slip allowed Canada’s Justine Dufour-Lapointe to win her second moguls World Cup this season with a 23.90. With the fastest time in the super final, Heidi Kloser, 21, from Vail, Colo., finished second with 23.50 — her second World Cup podium ever and first this Olympic qualifying season.

When asked what it takes to beat Kearney, Kloser said, “I guess making her push the speed?”

It was more question than answer.

“I don’t know, I’ve never done it before,” Kloser added, then laughed.

Moguls competitions are judged on turns, jumps (or airs), and speed. Fifty percent of a skier’s score is based on turns and 25 percent each on two jumps and time to ski the course.

After winning two World Cup moguls competitions in Deer Valley less than a week ago, Kearney, the defending moguls Olympic gold medalist and reigning world champion, admitted that she felt a little tired this week. With three World Cup wins this season, Kearney is the only women’s moguls skier to have objectively qualified for her third Olympic team.

“I think last week took a lot of my energy and fire,” she said. “Nothing should have changed. But sometimes there are things you can’t articulate, or maybe you don’t even identify until afterwards that have changed. Obviously the focus is (winning in) Sochi, but it’s still incredibly disappointing in the moment when you get beat.”

The Deer Valley competitions last week marked Kearney’s 100th and 101st World Cups over the past decade. And in those World Cup competitions, she’s landed on the podium in 61 of her first 102 competitions, with 39 wins. Such consistency has led Kearney to take four overall World Cup moguls titles and two overall World Cup freestyle titles — a total of six crystal globes in her trophy cabinet to keep her Olympic gold medal company.

This season, she also leads the overall World Cup freestyle and moguls standings.

Kearney’s father, Tom, was standing course-side in Lake Placid and said that his daughter has always been driven. As an example, he recalled a parent-teacher conference when Hannah was in second grade.

“The teacher said, ‘Hannah’s a great student and great with the kids, but I’d like to see her lighten up a little bit,’ ” the elder Kearney said. “That was my exact thought. She was so driven sometimes you wondered if she was having fun.”

But over the years, he’s noticed that his daughter is having fun and thinks that’s led to her consistency in high-pressure competitions.

He also credits Hannah’s brother, Denny, who is currently playing semi-pro hockey with Les Diables Rouges de Briancon (Briancon Red Devils), a team in France, following a four-year career at Yale University.

“(Denny) is a very gifted athlete, a very good player, but he goes about sports in a very different way, and they feed off each other,” Tom Kearney said. “Hannah drives him and pushes him a little harder, and he gets her thinking about the little things that he’s really good at figuring out.”

From Lake Placid, Hannah Kearney is traveling to Val St. Come, a ski area 1.5 hours north of Montreal, for the final World Cup before the Olympic break. The 2014 U.S. Olympic Freestyle Team will be named on Jan. 23.

Knowing that she is going to Sochi, Kearney is already mentally moving on from her disappointing run in Lake Placid.

“I’ll get over this one pretty quickly,” she said with her usual confidence. “We’re competing in two days, so I’ll get my chance at redemption.”

Then Kearney heads to Sochi, where she aims to become the first moguls skier ever to successfully defend an Olympic gold medal.

CORRECTION

The International Ski Federation World Cup moguls tour, of which Norwich's Hannah Kearney is the defending champion, holds its final pre-Olympics event in Val St. Come, Quebec, on Sunday. An earlier version of this story inaccurately reported the schedule.