American skier Hannah Kearney won the gold medal in the women’s moguls at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada.
Born on February 26, 1986, in Hanover, New Hampshire, Hannah Kearney began skiing competitively at age 9. After winning the moguls title at the 2005 World Championships, she finished a disappointing 22nd in the event at the 2006 Winter Olympics. Kearney recovered from an ACL injury to win gold in the moguls at the 2010 Winter Games, and claimed her second World Championships moguls title in 2013. In 2014, she took home the bronze medal in ladies' moguls at the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Olympic skier Hannah Kearney was born on February 26, 1986, in Hanover, New Hampshire. She learned to ski as a 2-year-old, and at age 9 joined the freestyle program at Waterville Valley Resort in New Hampshire that was run by Nick Preston, her future personal coach. Kearney attended Hanover High School, where she competed on the soccer and track teams while honing her world-class skills on the slopes.
Rapid Rise and Olympic Disappointment
Kearney won titles in the moguls at the Eastern and Junior U.S. Championships in 2002 and at the Junior World Championships in 2002 and '03. After facing down her fears of performing midair flips in competitions, she won her first two events on the World Cup circuit during the 2003-04 season. Known for her trademark pigtails, she punctuated a rapid ascent to the top of her field with a gold medal in the moguls at the 2005 World Championships.
Still shy of her 20th birthday, the moguls phenom was considered a favorite for a gold medal at the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Turin, Italy. However, she stumbled during her qualifying run and failed to advance, finishing 22nd overall. Devastated by her performance, Kearney suffered another setback when she tore an ACL a year later.
Olympic Redemption and Stardom
Forced to take a break from competition, Kearny took advantage of the downtime to rekindle the passion for skiing that had dissipated in the wake of her disappointing Olympic showing. Returning to the World Cup circuit full-time in 2008, she went on to win the moguls title later that season.
Despite becoming the first skier to clinch a spot on the Olympic moguls team with her win at the U.S. trials in December 2009, Kearny found herself battling the memory of her previous failure on the cusp of the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada. But she settled her nerves by turning in the fastest time in the qualifying run, then delivered an inspired performance to handily defeat Canadian Jennifer Heil for the moguls gold medal.
The monkey off her back, Kearney claimed her first freestyle overall title in 2011 and compiled a record 16 consecutive victories from 2011-12. Despite suffering a punctured lung and broken ribs from a crash in October 2012, she recovered to win her second World Championships moguls gold medal and her fourth overall title in the event, making her an early favorite for another gold at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
2014 Sochi Winter Olympics
After coming in first place for the qualification round of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Kearney competed in the freestyle skiing ladies' moguls. Although she hoped to make 2014 a record-breaking year in Sochi by gaining two consecutive gold medals, she fell short of her larger-than-life goal by placing third.
When asked about her run on the Olympic course, Kearney said, "I think I really gave it away is what it felt like. It was mine to ski for. I did try my best. The only positive I can see I guess is that I didn't lose because I was conservative, or being complacent." Kearney also said that while she planned on continuing her career as a skier, Sochi would be her third and final Olympic competition.