WILMINGTON - Olympic champion Hannah Kearney made a successful return to the moguls World Cup circuit with a win in the USANA Freestyle Cup at Whiteface Mountain on Thursday, Jan. 17.
Kearney missed the first two World Cup races this season after fracturing two ribs during a training crash in Switzerland in October.
"I expected myself to pick up where I left off, and I think I did," Kearney said. "I think that's what I'm the most proud of, both with the results and my skiing."
Mike Lynch/Lake Placid News
Vermont native Hannah Kearney, center, stands atop the podium after her Freestyle Cup win Thursday, Jan. 17 at Whiteface Mountain in Wilmington. Silver medal winner Nikola Sudova of the Czech Republic is on the left and Britteny Cox of Australia is on the right.
Kearney, of Norwich, Vt., has won the moguls event at Whiteface Mountain four straight years. Last season, she was the overall World Cup leader and set the record for most consecutive World Cup victories in moguls with 16, dating back to the previous season.
"It's hard to watch and not feel like you should be out there," Kearney said. "Today, it made me appreciate every single moment of the day."
Kearney said she had only started doing jumps five days ago and was still feeling rusty in training runs. But once the competition started, she settled back into her old routine and regained her top form.
"I had the comp adrenaline going, and when I was in the start gate for my very first run, I thought, 'OK, I know how to do this. I've been doing this for years,'" Kearney said.
The competition was also a homecoming of sorts for Kearney, who took gold in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. She trains at the Olympic Training Complex in Lake Placid in the summer and her family lives in Vermont. She said the combination of knowing the course well and having strong fan support played a big part in her having a successful day.
"It feels wonderful," she said. "It gives you confidence when you've had success on this course in the past. And I have a lot of people here who believe in me: parents, friends, and that always helps too."
Czech skier Nikola Sudova took second place while Australian Britteny Cox was third. American Heather McPhie retained the overall lead in the World Cup standings despite not qualifying for the semifinals. McPhie had won the previous two World Cups this winter.
"Unfortunately, today I just didn't put it down," she said. "I didn't even make finals. I'm definitely disappointed today, but really happy with how I'm doing overall."
Canadian Mikael Kingsbury finished first in the men's competition for the second consecutive year. He is the overall World Cup points leader for the men.
"It feels awesome," he said. "I never thought a win could be so satisfying like that. Everybody was skiing super good."
Three Americans followed Kingsbury. Patrick Deneen came in second, while Dylan Walczyk finished third. Bryon Wilson was fourth.
"This is my first real World Cup for the U.S. Team," Walczyk said. "I'm really psyched about making it on the podium. I had no idea this was coming. I skied pretty badly in training yesterday and before, but today I came out and skied well."
For Deneen, the return to Lake Placid was a welcomed one.
"I seemed to always ski really well here," he said. "If my podium percentage everywhere like it was in Lake Placid, my career would look a lot better."
There were 42 women and 66 men skiers entered in Thursday's competition on a day when temperatures were in the single digits without even factoring in wind chill.
Mikaela Matthews of Vail, Colo. was a career best fifth while Nicholas Keating of Killington, Vt. made finals and was ninth in his first career World Cup start.
The moguls skiers will now head to the Freestyle International Cup in Deer Valley, Colo. The next event starts on Jan. 31.