When you can do it on Race Day consistently, then you're in the zone that, heading into the freestyle skiing world championships -- which start Wednesday in Deer Valley, Utah -- American moguls standout Hannah Kearney is locked into right now. She has won her last five World Cup starts.
Five in a row in anything is special. Five in a row in a judged sport is extraordinary. Five in a row in a sport as capricious as moguls skiing -- that's historic domination.
It's all part of the Hannah Kearney plan.
Off the hill, you can be as soft-spoken and well-spoken, thoughtful and reflective as can be, talking about cooking, baking, cleaning, organizing and mending. For real -- mending. That's the kind of thing you do when you're from Vermont.
On the hill, you're there to win. On the hill, you don't win with false modesty. You set goals. And the mission for 2011, coming off nothing less than the gold medal at the Vancouver Olympics, was elemental.
"My goal this season was quite simple," she said in a telephone interview from Deer Valley. "World domination."
Maybe Hannah wins Wednesday, maybe she doesn't. It's one day. Jennifer Heil of Canada, the silver medalist in Vancouver and gold medalist from Torino in 2006, is an exceedingly good skier, too, as are any number of other women on the tour, and moguls skiing by definition is unpredictable.
Which makes the five-in-a-row streak all the more remarkable. It's even more so when you factor in the December World Cup in China, which took 50 hours of travel time just to get there. "It became a mental game that appealed to me. It all worked out in my favor," she later said in a U.S. Ski Team release about the experience.
Just one more reason why what Hannah has done on the World Cup tour this year ought to serve as a blueprint for a lot of other athletes in a lot of other sports.
You make the plan, and then you execute the plan.
It takes talent, time, commitment and -- and enormous mental toughness.
In his latest best-seller, "Outliers," Malcolm Gladwell returns repeatedly to what he calls the "10,000-hour rule," suggesting that you have to do something -- that is, practice it -- roughly 10,000 hours to get good at it.
Hannah Kearney will turn 25 at the end of February. She has been on skis since she was 2.
"It's impossible to say how many hours I have put in," she said. "I would like to emphasize that I still have room for improvement. But it would not surprise me if they said I was at 10,000."
It would have completely understandable if in this post-Olympic year Hannah had opted to take it a little bit easier.
That's not, though, what great champions do.
Yes, she had won gold in Vancouver.
Yes, she won the U.S. championships six weeks later, too.
But what was in the back of her mind -- what stuck with her over the summer?
How, she wondered, could she improve?
Here is how:
She had won the 2009 World Cup season-long title. But despite winning the 2010 Olympic gold medal -- she didn't win the 2010 World Cup title. Heil did.
"My goal this year was to be incredibly consistent, to dominate the season like I had never done," she said. So even though she was now the Olympic gold medalist -- she worked and worked and worked some more.
When you're consistent, you're confident. When you're confident, the odds are that much higher you win, and win consistently.
If it were that easy to win, everyone could do it, right? But it's not, of course.
"It's basically confidence, and the knowing, and the feeling, and that all comes from doing the work and the training, and then you're standing at the top of the course," Hannah Kearney said, "to be the best you can."