WINTER OLYMPICS | SKIING

U.S. skier Hannah Kearney fails to defend title, settles for bronze

 

mkaufman@MiamiHerald.com

Turns out there is snow at the Sochi Winter Olympics, after all. And a picturesque alpine village, too, albeit 80 percent vacant because storefronts are just being completed. Spectators watching on TV probably already know this, but fans and media isolated around the venues along the Black Sea coastline have to drive 50 miles outside Sochi to find the dramatic peaks of the Caucasus Mountains and people in snow boots.

Up here, 3,937 feet above the resort town’s pebbled beaches, sits the Rosa Khutur Extreme Park. This is where you find the skiers who like to take the hard way down. As if it isn’t challenging enough to race down an Olympic-level ski course on the ground with your skis pointed downward, moguls skiers choose to ski down a steep 28 degree slope covered in snow bumps, and then, just for kicks, launch off air bumps and perform two acrobatic jumps.

The names of the jumps alone are clues of their difficulty: the backscratcher, daffy, helicopter, iron cross, kosak, mule kick, and twister. Watching the skiers’ knees, bouncing up and down and swiveling side to side as they carve through the course, it’s a wonder they don’t head to the orthopedic surgeon after every run.

Saturday night, under the lights, all eyes were on 27-year-old American Hannah Kearney. The defending Olympic champion from Norwich, Vt., is one of the most dominant freestyle skiers of all time and was the top qualifier Thursday, earning an automatic berth in the championship.

Kearney broke Canadian hearts in Vancouver on the first day of the 2010 Games, upsetting hometown favorite Jennifer Heil. On Saturday, a pair of Canadian sisters broke Kearney’s heart. Justine Dufour-Lapointe, 19, and her older sister, Chloe, 22, won gold and silver medals, respectively, leaving a devastated Kearney to settle for bronze.

The Dufour-Lapointe’s eldest sister, Maxime, 24, also competed in the event. It was the fifth time in Olympic history that three siblings competed in the same Winter Olympics, and just the third time in an individual event. In 1960, Therese, Anne-Marie and Margeurite LeDuc competed for the French alpine team. In 1976, Argentine brothers Marcos, Martin and Matias Jerman skied cross country. In 1980, Anton, Peter, and Marian Stasny played for the Czech hockey team, and in 1988, the Mexican bobsled team consisted of four brothers, Jorge, Jose, Luis and Roberto Tames.

“It just totally rocks!’’ said Justine Dufour-Lapointe. “It’s just really amazing. I gave everything I had inside. I haven’t eaten since 12 in the morning. I felt the pressure, but I tried to just put that away and I said, `You know what? I’m going to roar and people will see me and remember who the real Justine is.’’

The two sisters held hands on the medal podium.

Kearney lost balance on her final run and scored 21.49. Justine won with a score of 22.44. Chloe scored 21.66. Skiers are judged on their jumps and technical quality of their turns, and they earn points for their time.

Kearney, a no-nonsense Dartmouth student who likes to knit and tend garden, didn’t hide her disappointment during her press conference. She broke down twice, and buried her head – with her trademark braids sticking up from her goggle straps – into her hands.

“I feel like I let myself down,’’ she said. “I wanted that gold medal, and I skied for it, but I made a huge mistake, and you don’t win the Olympics when you make a huge mistake in your run. I am proud to contribute to the medal count for the United States, but right now it feels very disappointing.’’

Kearney skied last, and it wasn’t until her score was posted that she knew she had blown the gold.

“So much adrenaline, I didn’t realize mistake was that bad,’’ she said. “I felt like I got off balance, but I’m strong so I pulled it back together with all my might and I hopefully showed some mental strength by cleaning up the rest of my run. I’ll have to treat this bronze medal as [breaking down in tears] a reward for fighting and not perfection.’’

She composed herself, and continued.

“Right now I’d like very much to ski again. Instead, I will try my absolute best to let it go. That will help my happiness level going forward. You can’t live in the past and this moment is now already over, so I have to look forward to the next thing. Unfortunately, all my training and focus has been on this moment and now that it’s over you have to reevaluate, come up with new goals. It’s tough when you know your Olympic career is over and it did not go as you were imagining.’’

Then, she got philosophical.

“Life does not always go according to plan. There’s usually a reason, and you learn from it. Despite my outpouring of emotion right now – sorry, I’m a girl and I worked really hard these last four years so, whew, this is hard – I’ll start planning the next chapter of my life.’’

Read more Olympics stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
In this Nov. 19, 2013 photo small boats sit on the shore of Guanabara Bay in the suburb of Sao Goncalo, across the bay from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  Rio dumps almost 70 percent of its untreated sewage into its surrounding waters, which fouls the bay with human waste and floating debris.

    Sailors to navigate dirty water in 1st Rio test

    Sailors, coaches and the mayor of Rio de Janeiro acknowledge the problem: Guanabara Bay, the venue for sailing at the 2016 Olympics, is badly polluted. Some liken it to a sewer.

  •  
FILE - In this Oct. 1, 2013 file photo, Scott Blackmun, chief executive officer of the U.S. Olympic Committee, speaks with reporters during a news conference in Park City, Utah. If Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco or Washington are picked as a candidate to host the 2024 Olympics, the U.S. Olympic Committee might not feel like a winner right away. One of its first tasks will be to hand over millions in sponsorship cash to the winning city's new organizing committee.

    Marketing agreement an obstacle in US bid for 2024

    If Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco or Washington is picked to host the 2024 Olympics, the U.S. Olympic Committee will pay the price for winning. One of its first tasks will be to hand over millions in sponsorships to the victorious city's newly formed organizing committee.

  • Korean Air chief in line to lead Pyeongchang Games

    The South Korean businessman who led Pyeongchang's successful bid for the Winter Olympics is set to return as head of the organizing committee for the 2018 Games.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category