The list is painfully long: A torn knee ligament. A major concussion. A lacerated liver. Broken ribs. A punctured lung.
Freestyle skier Hannah Kearney has endured all these
injuries and more – but she keeps coming back stronger than ever. Not long after
recovering from ACL surgery in 2007, she won the first moguls World Cup title
of her career and ultimately the gold medal at the 2010 Olympics. So it should
come as no surprise that after breaking two ribs and bruising her liver in a
training crash in October 2012, she has returned to the top of the moguls
"I want to stand in that start gate and have full confidence that I'm going to lay down a good run," Kearney said, "and for me that comes from knowing that I did exactly 1,022 jumps into a pool this summer to practice."
Moguls, which gained medal status in
1992, can certainly take a toll on the body. The freestyle specialty showcases
speed and power as skiers navigate jarring bumps, hairpin turns and big jumps. Competitors are judged on their precision –
and time – down the course.
"I'm going for quality over particularly high difficulty in my air maneuvers," said Kearney, who's also a spokesperson for Chobani Greek Yogurt, one of this year's major U.S. Olympic sponsors.
With the injuries behind her, Kearney says she has the "test results to prove I've never been stronger" and she's peaking at the right time. But the woman who has dominated her sport for several years still thinks there is room for improvement as she hits the Sochi slopes.
"I truly believe I can become a better moguls skier," Kearney said. "My plan in Sochi is to ski the three or four best mogul runs of my life."