One day into the 2010 Olympics, Hannah Kearney became a breakout star in the United States and a villain in Canada.
The mogul skier, 23 at the time, won gold in women's moguls on Feb. 13 in Vancouver. Much of the host country expected Jennifer Heil, the 2006 gold medalist, to take home Canada's first gold medal of the games. But Kearney swooped instead and gave the United States its first gold of the 2010 Games, while Heil took the silver and American Shannon Bahrke won bronze.
Now, four years later, Kearney, who had finished 22nd as a 19-year-old in Turin, is a veteran in her sport and defending champion heading into the Sochi Olympics in February.
"I think some of my career–the timing has worked out," she said in an interview with ThePostGame.
Kearney's development have matched up well with the cycle of the Olympics. She entered her first games as a teenager on the cusp of competing at the top of the sport. By age 23, she entered her prime and was fit for a gold medal. This year, although she may be older than many competitors, Kearney's body is still holding up.
"When you've won a gold medal and you're at the top of your sport, everyone's trying to beat you," Kearney said. "I find that incredibly motivating."
In fact, Kearney may be skiing better than ever, which pegs her as the favorite in Sochi. Last March, she won the moguls gold at the FIS Freestyle World Ski Championships in Norway. Just this past Saturday, Kearney earned a victory in a pre-Olympic event in Finland. But she understands her resume can't win the gold for her.
"Just because I won the last event, just because I've won in the past has no reflection on how this event will go," she said.
While moguls may be an interesting sport to Americans during the Olympics, Kearney admits it does not take in an overwhelming viewership during the four years in between.
"When the United States media is paying attention, that's when you're really representing your country," she said of the extra scrutiny.
Off the mountain, Kearney is an avid chef. Chobani Greek Yogurt is one of her sponsors and she did this interview from her kitchen. She is also a college student, which is one difference from the last time she competed in the Olympics. The Vermont native enrolled at Dartmouth College this year, and it has been a challenge getting back in the classroom.
"I'm a 27-year-old freshman and returning to college after a seven-year break from high school was by far the hardest thing I've ever done in my life," Kearney said. "I don't recommend it."
See the complete interview here:
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