KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – Hannah Kearney's run as one of the U.S. Ski program's most dominant specialists suffered a setback in Sochi, as the heavy moguls favorite took bronze and failed to defend the gold medal she captured in Vancouver in 2010.
"I feel like I let myself down," Kearney during a tearful news conference. "I wanted that gold medal."
The world's best female moguls specialist for the past three years, Kearney appeared set to once again seize the top of the podium after she entered the medal stanza with the best score of the first two rounds. But her final run quickly unraveled as she lost her balance in the middle of the course and careened onto one ski before pulling herself out of a potential crash. Her chief competition – Canadian sisters Justine and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe – had already put up strong runs before Kearney closed out the medal round, and it was immediately clear the stumble had cost her the gold.
[Related: Canadian sisters finish 1-2 in moguls]
"It wasn't the nerves," Kearney said. "It was a simple kick-out. I did everything I could. I fought back from a not-very-good run, but that one turn got the best of me today."
Known for her trademark pigtails poking out of her helmet, Kearney looked uncharacteristically shaky in an event she has owned on the World Cup tour. She rebounded from a solid but unspectacular first run, which saw her qualify for the round of 12 with a 20.95 – the seventh-best time in the opening round. She then charged back in round two, posting a 21.93 and pacing the field into the medal round. The United States' Eliza Outtrim also qualified for the finals, putting two Americans into medal contention for the second straight Olympics.
But Outtrim ultimately stumbled in the finals, leaving Kearney as the United State's lone medal hope as she pushed off in the last run of the night. She looked steady after the first jump, but appeared to have her composure broken after landing and twisting through several moguls. That's when she lost her balance and jutted upward onto one ski, a significant mistake that would cost her in scoring, leaving her with a 21.49. Justine Dufour-Lapointe took gold with a score of 22.44, while her sister Chloe captured silver at 21.66.
"It just totally rocks," Justine Dufour-Lapointe said. "It is just really amazing. Today I gave everything I had inside. I haven't eaten since 12 this morning."
Kearney's bronze was the second U.S. medal of the day at the Sochi Games, following snowboarder Sage Kotsenburg's gold in slopestyle.
"It's really unfortunate it's at the Olympics, but I'm sure something good with come from it," Kearney said. "I'm just not sure what it is yet."