Tignes: Not her top form, but Hannah Kearney savors opening winTweet
Tignes: Not her top form, but Hannah Kearney savors opening winTIGNES, France – Reigning moguls world champion Hannah Kearney won the opening event of the World Cup season Wednesday, leading five U.S. women into the top 10, while the U.S. men struggled.
Defending World Cup champion Jeremy Bloom had the top U.S. men’s result, finishing fourth behind winner Tapio Luusua of Finland, as four U.S. men made the top 10.
‘Great way to open the season with Hannah winning. Everyone’s out in an Olympic year’ U.S. head coach Jeff Wintersteen said, ‘and the men’s event was very close, very tough. They certainly can ski better and I think this’ll make them a lot tougher next time’ in Oberstdorf, Germany, on Sunday.
Kearney, who won her third World Cup contest, led the qualifying and cruised to the win with 25.75 points to 25.37 for Canadian Jennifer Heil. Michelle Roark was fifth at 23.82 with Jillian Vogtli eighth, Laurel Shanley ninth and Emiko Torito 10th. Olympic medalist Shannon Bahrke, returning to the World Cup after missing most of the last two seasons with injuries, was 14th.
Kearney, who worked with a personal trainer during the preseason and focused on improving her backflips, nailed a backflip iron cross off the top jump and her second ‘air’ was a heli – a 360-degree rotation. Heil had the best points on her airs and the fastest time, but couldn’t match Kearney in the turns, according to the judges’ scores.
‘This is an excellent way to start the Olympic season, and I’m planning on keeping it up’ Kearney said. Kearney, who turns 20 on the final day of the Olympics (Feb. 26), ended the 2005 season by winning the gold medal at the World Championships.
‘The course was a little icy this morning, but this afternoon [for the final run], the sun came out and it softened up a little’ she said. ‘My jumps in my first run were not very good, but there was nothing really wrong with them in my second run.’
‘Hannah could have been a little a little cleaner on her exit from her bottom air’ Wintersteen said, ‘but you can’t fault a win. The other girls know she’s right up there, and she’ll be even tougher after this as things settle down from the first comp of the season. I thought Michelle skied really well, just a great day and a good start for her, Laurel hit a D-spin [off-axis rotation] for the first time on her top air and that was pretty sweet, so she’s rolling … and Emiko hit a backflip that should help her confidence, and Jillian’s solid, so a good start for the ladies.’
Luusua’s winning score was 25.64 – one-hundredth of a point ahead of Japan’s Yugo Tsukita. Bloom had 25.19 with Roberts compiling 25.11. Travis Mayer was seventh with Toby Dawson in ninth place.
“I had problems on the top of the run,” Bloom told the Associated Press. “I’ve been having a lot of that recently. But I feel in better shape than I did at this stage last year.”
Wintersteen refused to sound a doom and gloom tone even though no men reached the podium for the first time since Dec. 14, 2000, when the best American man was 11th. ‘We still have four guys in the top 10′ Wintersteen said, ‘and now things will really heat up for the men. This is a wake-up call.’
He said Bloom made a small mistake on his top jump while Roberts skied ‘great – I don’t know what they [judges] were looking for, and Toby’s working on some new tricks, T-Mayer was close, so … no time to panic, but they know they have to ski the way they’ve shown they can ski on Sunday.’
Former World Cup champion Travis Cabral crashed as he ‘went big’ Wintersteen said, ‘and landed in a hole, and his ski came off. But he’s fine and he’ll be in the hunt again on Sunday, for sure.’
The only other competition this month is Sunday in Obertsdorf and then the U.S. skiers return home for the holidays before the final push to Olympic qualifying. They compete Jan. 7-8 in Tremblant, Quebec, and hit two stops as part of the 10 Weeks to Torino lead-up to announcing the Olympic team – Jan. 13-14 at the Chevrolet Freestyle International at Deer Valley, Utah, and Jan. 20-22 at the Nature Valley Freestyle Cup in Lake Placid, N.Y., the final qualifying event for U.S. freestylers before the Olympic team is selected.
Freestyle World Cup results
Tignes, France – Dec. 14, 2005
Moguls (12 make finals)
1. Tapio Luusua, Finland, 25.64
2. Yugo Tsukita, Japan, 25.63
3. Sami Mustonen, Finland, 25.44
4. Jeremy Bloom, Loveland, Colo., 25.19
5. Vitaly Gluschenko, Russia, 25.15
6. Nate Roberts, Park City, Utah, 25.11
7. Travis Mayer, Steamboat Springs, Colo., 24.50
9. Toby Dawson, Vail, Colo., 23.96
13. Luke Westerlund, Breckenridge, Colo.
49. Dave Babic, Washington, Vt.
66. Travis Cabral, South Lake Tahoe, Calif.
1. Hannah Kearney, Norwich, Vt., 25.75
2. Jennifer Heil, Canada, 25.37
3. Sara Kjellin, Sweden, 24.27
4. Nikola Sudova, Czech Republic, 23.92
5. Michelle Roark, Denver, 23.82
8. Jillian Vogtli, Ellicotville, N.Y., 22.98
9. Laurel Shanley, Squaw Valley, Calif., 22.54
10. Emiko Torito, Denver, 22.47
14. Shannon Bahrke, Tahoe City, Calif.
- Courtesy USSA News Bureau