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Good night for USA; tough start for Games hosts

U.S. freestyle skier Heather Hannah Kearney knew she needed a great run to top Canadian Jenn Heil on the women's Olympic moguls course Saturday night, so it never occurred to her to play it safe. Four years removed from a disappointing 22nd place finish at the 2006 Winter Games, Kearney had made up her mind upon her arrival in Vancouver that this Olympics would be different: More fun, more heart.

And so she was going to fly down the Cypress Mountain course without holding anything back.

"I heard Jenn's score and head the crowd's appreciation of her score," Kearney said Sunday morning in Vancouver. "It was clear she had skied a great run ... It didn't change much. I was going to charge regardless of what she had done. You don't want to lose to the Olympic gold medal because you hold back ... I'm glad she had a great run, because it's that much more satisfying to win."

Kearney's near-flawless performance earned her a massive embrace from teammate Shannon Bahrke, who won the bronze, and pushed Heil into second place--a crushing disappointment for Canada, which hoped to claim its first gold medal ever in a home Olympics.

Despite the quality of the run, Kearney said she couldn't celebrate until she saw the judge's scores.

"Shannon knew way before I did," Kearney said. "Hence the tackle."

The first night of Olympic competition was an extraordinary one for the United States, which also earned a pair of medals in the men's 1,500 short track event. In downtown Vancouver, Apolo Anton Ohno won the silver and teammate J.R. Celski took the bronze.
Canada, meantime, fell short of its goal of an opening day gold.

Heil's silver was described as a "consolation prize" by one of the local newspapers. Kearney said a reporter from Sports Illustrated asked her for an interview after the event, but confessed to being there in the hopes of covering the first gold for Canada.

"They almost were making me feel bad about winning a gold," Kearney said. "Another thing that's really sad about it was she won the silver medal; I don't think she lost the gold... In other circumstances, Canada would be thrilled for her."

Both U.S. women said they'd welcome some sponsorships on the heels of their medal victories, with Kearney saying she would prefer Ben and Jerry's ice cream since she wanted to create a new flavor (coffee ice cream with Oreos).

The U.S. freestyle skiing team does not have the funding to send its skiers to the next world cup event in Japan; only one coach will attend and skiers who want to compete will have to pay their own way.

"If you really want to be here, it's not off of someone else's dollar, it's off your heart and hard work," Bahrke said.

By Amy Shipley  |  February 14, 2010; 12:49 PM ET
Categories:  Freestyle Skiing  
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Next: NBC Olympic ratings strong; who needs skiing?


That's HANNAH Kearney, no?

Posted by: Blackcloud1 | February 14, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

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