Q&A: Bad luck aside, Kearney amped for '09 season



It’s like Hannah Kearney just disappeared this past season. It’s bizarre when a top moguls skier on the U.S. team appears to do that, especially one with such accolades as Kearney.
    Kearney, the 2005 moguls world champion, got injured this past season, but it wasn’t like the ACL tear she had midway through the 2007 season that definitely kept her from competing. This was a head injury — and those can be frustrating because there is no specific healing time. And as Kearney said, “concussions take forever to recover from.”
    After sustaining the concussion in the second event of the season, Kearney tried to come back but didn’t quite feel like herself until the last contest of the season where — out of nowhere — she just ended up on the podium in third place at the U.S. Freestyle Championships in Deer Valley, Utah.
    And this 22-year-old doesn’t plan on disappearing any time soon. “I got all of my bad luck out of the way so next year is going to be phenomenal,” Kearney said.
   
IT'S LIKE HANNAH KEARNEY just disappeared this past season. It’s bizarre when a top moguls skier on the U.S. team appears to do that, especially one with such accolades as Kearney.
     Kearney, the 2005 moguls world champion, got injured this past season, but it wasn’t like the ACL tear she had midway through the 2007 season that definitely kept her from competing. This was a head injury — and those can be frustrating because there is no specific healing time. And as Kearney said, “concussions take forever to recover from.”
    In the second World Cup contest of the season, she miscalculated a jump and ended up with a concussion. Kearney tried to come back, but she didn’t quite feel like herself until the last contest of the season where — out of nowhere — she just ended up on the podium in third place behind Emiko Torito and Shelly Robertson at the U.S. Freestyle Championships in Deer Valley, Utah.
    The Vermont native has had a string of bad luck after a solid season in 2006-07. In only four events, she had two World Cup podiums and a fifth-place finish, won a NorAm, but then had to sit out the rest of the winter when she injured her knee before a World Cup in LaPlagne, France. The road back has been long, but Kearney had a huge smile on her face when SR met up with her at nationals. She even pulled out a trick from her quiver that surprised everyone. This 22-year-old doesn’t plan on disappearing any time soon. “I got all of my bad luck out of the way so next year is going to be phenomenal,” she said.

Ski Racing: It’s like you just kind of disappeared this season, what happened?
Hannah Kearney: A year and a couple months ago, I blew out my knee in February 2007. So starting back this year was sort of a rebuilding year if you will. I made it through competitions at Lake Placid. It went pretty well. I qualified really high but messed up my second run but I was skiing and it felt great. Then at the next competition in Quebec, the day before the competition, I did half a backflip, landed sideways and shot my head downhill into the snow, lost consciousness for a couple of seconds — the whole shebang in an ambulance. I felt pretty good the next day but concussions take forever to recover from. For about a month, I wasn’t feeling like myself. Talking to the coaches and the doctors, I made the decision not go to [the upcoming] competitions. I traveled here [Deer Valley] and Vancouver hoping I would be able to compete, but it just wasn’t going to happen.

SR: So what did you do during the season?
HK: I went home and for the last two months, watched my brother’s hockey games [he plays at Yale], skiing in Waterville for the last week or so and then I’m here [in Deer Valley] for the last competition of the year but really my first competition of the year. It felt really good to get a competition in before the season is over. That’s the way my life has been. I got all of my bad luck out of the way so next year is going to be phenomenal.

SR: Saw that you threw a heli-mute variation as your lower air during the moguls competition. That’s new for you.
HK: I have been doing the same jumps for years and years and years. I’m the last person who would be an innovator of jumps. I’m behind the times and always doing what everybody else is doing. I actually took a nap today in between runs and my heli was really bad my first run and it just crossed my mind that I should try the heli mute. I trained them on the ramps this summer and I’ve been wanting to do them forever but it never seemed like the right time. It’s easier to do a trick you already know how to do. Today I figured I had nothing to lose so I went for the ‘Moseley.’ I sort of pulled it off. It was a little ugly but it was the first time I did it in a full run, even in training. It felt good to do something different. I’m happy I got that out of the way and hopefully I’ll be able to compete it at every competition next year.

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