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Hannah Kearney back on top after World Cup win at Deer Valley

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DEER VALLEY — The questions and compliments after her second-place finish in Calgary last week made Hannah Kearney question whether she was giving the moguls everything she had.

“A lot of people were asking me, ‘Oh, are you holding back?’” she said after winning the FIS World Cup at Deer Valley Thursday night to take sole possession of the circuit’s No. 1 ranking. “No, I didn’t mean to be holding back, but maybe I was.”

The other comment the defending Olympic champion heard after her second-place World Cup finish was, “You’re really consistent.” While that might be meant as a compliment in some circles, for a woman who hopes to be the first to win two gold medals in her sport, it was a challenge.

“That’s another … phrase for, 'You’re not trying hard enough,'” said Kearney, who scored 24.83 to win gold on one of her favorite World Cup courses. “I wanted to push myself. I was happy between qualifying and finals. I went way bigger on my top jump, and I shaved a second and a half or two off my time.”

She shared the podium with the same two women who were on the podium with her in Calgary last week — just their finish order changed. Justine Dufour-Lapointe, who beat Kearney last week and was tied at the top of the World Cup standings with the Vermont native, finished third Thursday (23.33 points) behind her sister, Chloe Dufour-Lapointe (23.45).

Kearney said finishing second in Calgary shaped her strategy heading into the first of two World Cups at Deer Valley for mogul skiers.

“It feels really good to be rewarded by the judges for pushing myself,” Kearney said. “I felt a little bit out of control, but they didn’t punish me too much, and that’s nice because I needed to charge.”

The competition was Kearney’s 100th World Cup. The victory was her 38th, and the podium finish with her 57th.

Kearney has already qualified for the Olympic team as she won the first World Cup of the season and placed second last week. And while that gives her some breathing room, it doesn’t mean she’s taking it easy in any way.

“I just want to ski well,” she said. “And win. I feel great, and I’m learning from all of these events. Just being in the start gate is the best way to prepare.”

Coach Todd Schirman said one of Kearney’s strengths is her ability to focus simply on what she does.

“She comes out here and she wants to improve on her runs,” he said. “She doesn’t care about anybody else and how anybody else skis. She just wants to improve on each run, each day. She’s a true champion.”

He said her determination extends to everything she does.

“She’s not only dominant on the hill, but she’s dominant in the gym; she’s dominant with her psychology,” Schirman said. “She checks off all the boxes. ... And I don’t see anything slowing her down right now.”

The men’s competition turned out to be a Canadian sweep as Mikael Kingsbury edged teammate and defending Olympic champion Alex Bilodeau, 26.39 to 25.29. Marc-Antoine Gagnon finished third at 24.85.

The top American finisher was Troy Murphy, who was skiing in the first super final of his career.

“To make the super final was amazing,” the 21-year-old Maine native said. “I’m just really happy. I knew I could do it. ... I’ve had pretty bad luck here the last couple of years. But I always believed I could be here.”

He said Deer Valley is one of his favorite courses and making the super final gives him confidence heading into the second World Cup of the weekend on Saturday.

“Troy Murphy is an amazing story,” Schirman said. “He’s been starting here the last couple of years, and he made the team this last spring. And it proves he has the World Cup experience behind him. This kind of changes his life because it gives him an opportunity to ski more World Cups past North America.”

The FIS Freestyle World Cup continues Friday with aerial competitions, beginning with qualification rounds at 3 p.m. Finals are scheduled for 7 p.m. On Saturday, the mogul skiers will return to the Champion course for another shot at World Cup gold.

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