USSA News Bureau

ROSA KHUTOR, Russia Women's moguls kicked off Thursday with the first round of Olympic qualifications. Defending Olympic champion Hannah Kearney (Norwich, Vt.) took the top spot and Eliza Outtrim (Hamden, Conn.) finished fourth, automatically advancing them to the semifinal round of 20.

Kearney is gunning for her second gold medal and would be the only freestyle skier to ever win back-to-back gold.

"It didn't feel like the Olympics until I was standing at the top watching Eliza at the gate and I took a second and looked at our Olympic bibs," Kearney said. "Then it hit me that we're here."

Thursday was the first time the new competition format was used in the Olympics as well as the first time the athletes used it this season.

"The new format is good for us because I can say quite confidently that we are the most fit and the strongest team out there," Kearney said. "If you've seen the Center of Excellence in Utah, you'd know that it's the nicest training venue you could ask for. We're all ready to ski a lot of runs in a row."

Women's finals are set for Saturday, Feb. 8, and men's qualifications and finals are both scheduled for Monday, Feb. 10.



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