January 30, 2009
It was ladies’ night well, make that ladies’ afternoon — for the Americans at the moguls event of the Visa Freestyle International World Cup at Deer Valley Thursday.
It was a one-two finish for the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team’s Hannah Kearney, with a score of 22.91, and Michelle Roark, with a 21.75. Battling an icy Champion course, the two managed to ski fast and smart through the Deer Valley bumps. Moguls are decided on a combination of time and a judged performance.
Kearney, who was sharing the overall World Cup leader yellow jersey with Canada’s Jennifer Heil, took a convincing lead with her first-place finish.
"I love this yellow bib," Kearney said. "I’ve never had it before. I plan on keeping it."
Kearney had the fastest run of the day with a time of 30.68 and cleanly landed her tricks on both the top and bottom jumps.
It’s been a comeback season for Kearney, who missed the season two years ago with a knee injury and had to cut last season short after suffering a concussion at Mont Gabriel in Quebec, Canada. She started of the season with a first-place finish in dual moguls in Maribel, France, and took third in duals in Mont Gabriel last week.
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Kearney was just happy to have such a clean run on the treacherous Champion course. She said her preliminary run was not as good as she had wanted it to be and felt her winning effort was her best of the week.
"My first run was conservative. I skied defensively," Kearney said. "When you ski defensively, generally you’re going to make mistakes, and I just was tentative and not really excited with my skiing. So the second run, I was just going for it. I had nothing to lose. I was in fourth place; that’s not a podium. So I skied a lot more aggressively."
A few extras didn’t hurt her ability to navigate the ice either.
"Going into both of the jumps, there’s like a sheet of ice. Luckily, I have a really good tune on my skis, and I grew up in Vermont, so I’m used to it, and I was able to handle it," Kearney said, smiling. "But it was the most difficult part of the course."
Former co-leader Heil was not so lucky. The Canadian had an awkward start off the bottom jump and a low flip left her sprawled on her back and unable to finish the run successfully. Kearney thought a mix of pressure and the slick course did her in
"That’s the disadvantage of going last," Kearney said. "I got really nervous for Jen to go It was sheer ice. It looked like maybe she made some difficult pole plants that got her caught up, and I’ve done that exact same thing off that bottom jump. You just get caught up, and when you’re upside-down, it’s scary if you’re off balance."
Austria’s Margarita Marbler took third with a score of 20.80. Americans Shannon Bahrke also fared well, taking sixth with a score of 20.05.
On the men’s side, the U.S.’s Patrick Deneen took third with a score 23.99 while Frenchman Guilbaut Colas took first with a 24.62 and French Canadian Alexandre Bilodeau of Canadian took second with a score of 24.20. Bilodeau’s second place was enough for him to hold onto the yellow jersey. All three blazed down the course, with Bilodeau skiing the fastest with a time of 23.78 seconds. Deneen, who is known for his speed, turned in a time of 24.20 seconds the second fastest run of the day. American Landon Gardner also fared will, finishing in seventh with a score of 22.76
The mogulists will return to the Champion Run on Saturday night for the dual moguls competition. Qualifications begin at 4:45 p.m. followed by the finals at 8 p.m. Earlier in day, Park City Mountain Resort will host the ski halfpipe event on the 22-foot Superpipe. Qualifications begin at 9:30 a.m. and final start at 12:30 p.m.