Favorite Kearney cruises through moguls qualifying

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 6, 2014 at 10:46 am •  Published: February 6, 2014
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KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — The flashback hit Hannah Kearney out of nowhere.

That's when the defending gold medalist in women's moguls decided she needed to turn her brain off and just do her thing.

It worked.

The American's quest for an Olympic repeat started flawlessly Thursday as she easily topped qualifying. The 27-year-old from New Hampshire posted a score of 23.05 to move into Saturday's finals and move one step closer to bookending the gold she won in Vancouver four years ago.

Canadian Chloe Dufour-Lapointe finished second in qualifying, just ahead of younger sister Justine and older sister Maxime, who came in eighth. The trio declined interview requests to focus on the next step.

Kearney initially hoped to grab gold in Turin in 2006, when she was a 19-year-old world champion entering her prime. Instead she crashed during qualifying, tumbling over one of the early bumps in the course.

It nearly happened again during training earlier in the week, providing Kearney with a haunting reminder of Turin.

"I thought, 'Oh, boy, we don't need this problem again,'" Kearney said.

She needn't have worried. Knees seemingly magnetized together as she navigated the moguls, Kearney posted the second-fastest time down the hill and highlighted it with a pair of well executed if not quite perfect jumps that allayed any concerns about the course's safety.

"I think that everywhere we go, every World Cup venue, we show up and say, 'Oh, my god. How are we going to make it down this course? This is impossible,'" Kearney said.

After some tweaking by officials, the slopes of the Caucasus Mountains looked no different than most other moguls events over the last four years, with the top-ranked Kearney looking down at the rest of the field.

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