Kearney wins 1st gold for USA

Edges Canadian in moguls

Bahrke claims bronze

February 14, 2010|By Lisa Dillman | Tribune Olympic Bureau

VANCOUVER - This was supposed to be for all the Canadian athletes who, at worst, faltered on over-pressurized home soil during the Olympics, or at best, overachieved, and came up just shy of gold.

Not that an individual gold medal in Vancouver could erase something like the seismic failure of the men's 1988 Olympic hockey team in Calgary.

But finally, and mercifully, it could put an end to the ever-present chatter and questions about the failure for Canada to win gold during an Olympics on its home soil.

The wait got just a bit longer and a bit more agonizing.

Gold was snatched away from Canada on the very last run of a drama-filled women's moguls final. American Hannah Kearney, who failed to make the final four years ago in Italy, found redemption on Saturday night at Cypress Mountain, winning gold for the United States - its first of these games.

Waiting in the finish area was the favorite and defending Olympic champion Jenn Heil of Canada, who had put down her own spectacular run just before Kearney's.

It was a razor-thin contest. Kearney had 26.63 points to Heil's 25.69. Shannon Bahrke won bronze for the United States on a rainy, windy night here.

Conditions deteriorated quickly in the hour leading up to the race with the wind picking up and the rain coming down harder. The first huge spill of the finals came from 1998 Olympic gold medalist Tae Satoya of Japan, the eighth skier down the course.

Six skiers later came an even bigger tumble. Veteran American freestyler Michelle Roark gambled hard, attempting a big 720, and crashed hard.

There had been some discussion earlier in the day about possibly having the finals rescheduled for a later date because of inclement weather.

Rain came down most of the afternoon, along with wind gusts, but conditions seemed to improve near the end qualifying. Kearney was the top qualifier followed by Heil and Heather McPhie.

"It's making the middle section pretty fast," Kearney said. "The moisture is falling out of the sky and making the middle section slick. So it's fast and it's going to make it an exciting event."

Kearney, who failed to qualify for the final in Turin, Italy four years ago when she finished 22nd, felt she made one error in her qualifying run.

"I had a little break in my helicopter on that bottom air," she said. "You know that instant replay (here) is really nice because I was able to analyze my form."

ldillman@tribune.com


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