Geraghty-Moats, Kearney to serve as Youth Olympics ambassadors

  • Tara Geraghty-Moats

  • Hannah Kearney

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 10/3/2019 9:58:41 PM
Modified: 10/3/2019 9:58:30 PM

Tara Geraghty-Moats sees herself as more than just an Olympic athlete, one of the world’s best in the small, up-and-comping international sport of women’s Nordic combined. She’s also something of a brand ambassador, tasked with spreading the word as she continues to make a case for inclusion the Olympic Winter Games.

Any chance to do so is important to the cause, even in the middle of her winter competition season. It’s simply part of the job description.

It’s a little different for Hannah Kearney, now out of Olympic competition and working as a personal trainer in Park City, Utah, and a fundraiser for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Foundation. Staying involved is a chance to stay up-to-date on what it’s like to be an up-and-coming athlete. It’s much different than it was when she was younger, Kearney said.

Her presence also makes any international event for athletes of a younger generation feel a little bit more real, allowing her to be a resource for information whenever she’s asked for help.

Geraghty-Moats, a West Fairlee native, and Hannah Kearney — the Norwich native, Hanover High graduate, three-time Olympic mogul skier and 2010 gold medalist — were added to a list of current or retired athletes from their respective international federations to be athlete role models at the 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne, Switzerland, beginning on Jan. 9. The athlete role models are tasked with sharing “their experiences with 1,800 young athletes while also taking part in educational activities and workshops,” according to a news release announcing their selection.

Also selected were U.S. bobsledder Jamie Greubel Poser, a bronze medalist at the 2014 Olympics; Mark Streit, the retired Swiss hockey player and 22-year veteran of the National Hockey League; Henrik L’Abee-Lund, a Norwegian biathlete; Maria Ntanou, a Greek cross country skier; and Jernej Damjan, a Slovenian ski jumper.

Kearney, 33, is the first U.S. athlete to have the role twice, having participated in the Youth Games in Lillehammer, Norway, in 2016.

“It’s pretty busy,” Kearney said of her past experience. “They have stations set up for locals, and others can try different sports. … I spent some time at the skiing station, going up and down, helping kids from Argentina try skiing for the second time in their life. I presented an award for the snocross event, took a cooking class with the women’s Slovenian hockey team, sat on a panel with a kayaker and an Alpine skier.

“They engage you, but it’s kind of up to you to make the most of it.”

Kearney said she was most impressed with how much like the adult Olympics they Youth Olympic Games actually were.

“I had never heard of them,” she said. “It was legitimately like the regular Olympics, just for a different age group.”

The Youth Olympics were started in 2010 at the Summer Games in Singapore, an elite sporting event hosted by the International Olympic Committee that showcases athletes ages 15-18 from 200 countries.

“For younger athletes to see former and current Olympians at these games, it makes it feel really important,” Kearney said. “It’s important to be a part of that. It makes it feel like a big deal.”

Geraghty-Moats was approached in the spring about the possibility of being selected, and admitted she was at first a little hesitant.

“It’s in the middle of my personal competition season,” she said. “But my overall goal is to be successful in Nordic combined and also build the sport. Next year (2021) will the be first time women’s Nordic combined will be part of the world championships. I thought it was important to be there and support all the youth Olympians, especially the Nordic combiners. It will be a special experience.”

Geraghty-Moats, 26, has been busy these last few years, competing and promoting her sport, the only Olympic discipline, summer or winter, without a women’s division. Those involved have started to see progress — women’s Nordic combined was added to the 2023 University Games in Lake Placid, N.Y., and is on the program for the Youth Olympic Games, along with its inclusion in the 2021 World Nordic Championships.

“It doesn’t feel any different when I’m racing. But being the faces of the sport in our respective countries, we all have more responsibilties,” Geraghty-Moats said. “Growing the sport means we can be successful. … We can change the world and make this sport more equitable.

“We’re on the right trajectory. … For so long it was baby steps. But it has been picking up steam.”

As an athlete role model, Geraghty-Moats will get a chance to pass on some of her knowledge to up-and-coming competitors.

“It’s really important to be a good mentor to the next generation,” she said. “I’ll be helping educate youth athletes on nutrition, injury prevention, anti-doping and sport ethics and sportsmanship. My story of persevering, going from sport to sport, I think I can educate young athletes on the bumps in the road.”

Kearney said she remembers being young and is careful not to come off as preaching. She’s also happy to serve as a resource at an event geared toward younger athletes.

“I don’t think you can call yourself a role model,” she said. “I’m happy to share everything I’ve learned, the value and perspective I’ve taken away from the sport. I can reflect on what helped and didn’t help my career. There are things I would have done sooner. I’m happy to talk about it.”

Geraghty-Moats, on the other hand, hopes to pass down more than just the technical strategies of Nordic combined. Her help to push the sport forward has given her a broad perspective on how to bring about change, growth and progress. Being an athlete certainly helps.

She just hopes she can help younger athletes at the Youth Olympic Games learn just how powerful their platform can be.

“It’s one of the things I want to pass along: Use sport to make the world a better place,” Geraghty-Moats said. “Make connections, travel, grow into the business person or coach or athletic trainer that you want to be.”

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