When mogul skier Hannah Kearney shot out of the gate at the 2006 Olympic Games in Torino, Italy, spectators had high hopes for her. Unfortunately, and surprisingly, Kearney stumbled after landing her first jump, and her visions of Olympic gold landed there in the snow with her. She placed 22nd and failed to make it to the final round.
Determined to perform better in 2010, Kearney changed the way she thought about the Olympics and decided to embrace them for what they were. “I came in with the attitude in 2006 that I would just block everything else out and treat it like a normal competition,” Kearney told SHAPE. “In theory, that’s how I was going to be able to ski my best. We compete at a level that’s the equivalent of the Olympics all year, so I thought I could just ski well, because I had proven that I could ski well at the World Cup level, but that’s not the right attitude, and it went really poorly for me.”
Her new strategy worked: Kearney, now 27, won gold in mogul skiing in Vancouver, and since then, she’s been on a winning streak. In fact, it’s been said that we’re in the “Hannah Kearney age of mogul skiing.” Not only has Kearney won the last three World Cup mogul championships in a row since 2010, but she just clinched a fourth one in January, winning the women’s mogul event with a score of 24.83 points (out of a possible 30). Not a bad start to 2014!
Kearney will probably go down in history as the best mogul skier in the world, but she didn’t get there by accident. The superstar skier follows a very regimented training routine that includes strength training, mobility training (like many athletes this season, Kearney is getting over a serious injury), trampoline work (wherein she practices her jumps and aerial tricks), the stationary bike, and more. “Plus, I try to fit in a quick cardio session before the gym closes,” Kearney says. “Then I eat dinner and do it all again the next day.” We’re tired just typing that!
Kearney has been skiing since she was 2 years old and has a string of accomplishments to her name: She’s won four U.S. championship titles, won the FIS Freestyle World Ski Championships in 2005 and 2013, and has more than 50 World Cup podium finishes.
That doesn’t mean it’s always been smooth skiing. In 2012, Hannah crashed during a training run in Switzerland and lacerated her liver, punctured a lung, and broke a couple of ribs, though she recovered quickly and returned to the World Cup circuit in 2013, winning six of the 10 events she competed in, plus winning the mogul event at the World Championships and ending her season ranked 4th overall.
Now, Kearney’s hoping to repeat her 2010 Olympic victory and says she’d like to “soak up” what is likely to be her last Olympic appearance. However, that doesn’t mean she’s planning on hanging up her skis anytime soon.
“The focus right now is of course on the Olympics, but I don’t think I’ll be ready to retire until I feel like I can’t improve anymore,” she says. “I want to prove to myself and the world that I can continue to improve.”
Kearney's also been busy working toward a future off the slopes. She is currently studying at Dartmouth ("I'm a 27-year-old freshman," she recently told Access Hollywood), and she was also just named a spokesperson for Chobani Greek yogurt. —Alanna Nuñez