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Kearney Keeps Title

Granada, Spain — Norwich’s Hannah Kearney retained her FIS World Cup women’s moguls title yesterday at Sierra Nevada, winning the season-ending event without having to do more than qualify for it.

What had been scheduled to be a dual moguls competition was cut short by race officials after three hours of delays caused by wind and fog. Kearney won the morning qualifying for what would have been the top seed in the 16-skier knockout; instead, qualification results stood as the final results, clinching Kearney’s third straight World Cup championship and the fourth of her career.

“The globe means a lot to me,” Kearney said in a U.S. Ski Team news release. “It’s my fourth globe, and I’ve never fought as hard for anything as I did for this globe.”

Whereas Kearney won 11 of 13 events and set an FIS all-discipline record for consecutive victories en route to last year’s moguls and overall titles, the Hanover High School graduate started this season in recovery. Injuries sustained in an Oct. 5 training accident near Zermatt, Switzerland — including two fractured ribs and a bruised liver — forced Kearney to miss the first two events of the 12-stop campaign and turned her season into one of comeback.

Down 200 points out of the game to American teammate Heather McPhie and 140 points behind Canadian teenager Justine Dufour-Lapointe, Kearney got to work by winning four of her first five events, including back-to-back events at Deer Valley, Utah, and another on the course to be used in next winter’s Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

Still, Dufour-Lapointe held a 555-531 points lead entering the two final events of the tour. After a flub in a March 15 moguls date in Are, Sweden, Kearney swept to a dual win 24 hours later to take the tour lead, then locked down the championship with yesterday’s qualifying effort.

Kearney posted 23.71 points to beat Japan’s Miki Ito (22.94) and McPhie (22.81). American Eliza Outtrim took fourth, followed by Dufour-Lapointe.

“Showing up in January after missing events, I didn’t know if it would be possible, and I didn’t help myself when I missed finals in a few events,” Kearney said. “It was nerve-wracking all season passing that yellow bib back and fourth. I didn’t have any extra padding coming into today and with the weather, it was just another variable to add to the nerves.”

Kearney finishes with a 731-640 points advantage on Dufour-Lapointe, with McPhie in third at 627 points. However, she won’t repeat as overall champion, as Chinese aerialist Mengtao Xu clinched those honors last month.

Kearney won her first World Cup title in 2009, winning three events on her way to her first crystal globe. She claimed her first Olympic gold medal at Vancouver the following year, then dominated the FIS circuit with 20 wins over 2011 and ’12 on her way to two more moguls crowns. There was every indication she’d continue that form this winter before October’s crash.

“Seems like it wasn’t really an event, but there was so much on the line and this event was so important,” Kearney said. “This kind of comp is where being a veteran really pays off. You know every competition that something could happen, and you could only get one run, so you have to put it all out there every time. I was happy with my skiing, and it was overall a really great day.”

Kearney’s season also included a moguls victory at last month’s World Championships in Norway. Her result yesterday along with those of her teammates clinched the FIS Nations Cup for the United States for the second straight winter.

Kearney is scheduled to compete in the U.S. Freestyle Championships in Squaw Valley, Calif., next week. She’ll be trying to regain the national title she lost to McPhie during last year’s meet at Stratton Mountain.