Hannah Kearney wins USA's 1st gold medal
WEST VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) - February 13, 2010 -- Hannah Kearney waited four years to overcome her bitter disappointment. Canada will have to wait at least one more day before it can really let loose.
The 23-year-old from New Hampshire slashed through the rain and down the moguls Saturday night - a remarkable run that gave America its first gold medal of the Vancouver Games and denied Jenn Heil the honor of becoming the first Canadian to win gold on home turf.
Heil came in as the favorite on paper - winner of her last four World Cup events - but this one really wasn't close. Kearney scored 26.63 points to win by .94 - a wide margin in a sport often decided by tenths and hundredths.
She won in a blowout four years after coming in as the favorite but stumbling in qualifying for a 22nd-place finish that left her crying at the bottom.
Shannon Bahrke took bronze to add to her silver from 2002 and push America's medal total to three after the first full day of competition. Apolo Anton Ohno took silver in speedskating earlier.
But there was no bigger performer on this day than Kearney, who insisted she was more mature, more able to turn her brain off and simply ski than she was four years ago in Italy, when she came in as the defending world champion and was out of the running before she even reached full speed.
Not this time.
She pulled off a back flip on her top jump and a 360-degree spin on her second, her legs knitted tightly together on both, the perfect example of the form and function judges love to see when they're handing out Olympic gold.
Same scene as she tore through the slushy, rain-soaked moguls - knees pointed forward and down the hill and hands moving in rhythm with the bumps.
Logging the fastest time - 27.86 seconds - didn't hurt anything, and when Kearney made it across the finish line, she knew it - pumping her fists and waiting for the score that would prove to be a blowout over Heil, the defending Olympic champ.
It put a red, white and blue tinge on what was supposed to be a day for Canada. Prime Minister Stephen Harper was in the house to watch Heil, the top-ranked moguls skier in the world who was given a great shot at becoming the first to get 'O Canada' played at a medals ceremony in Canada.
Instead, she'll go down with figure skater Brian Orser, who lost the famous "Battle of the Brians" to Brian Boitano back in Calgary in 1988, settling for silver in what may have been Canada's last, best chance to take that gold on home turf.
winter olympics, sports
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