Moguls skier Hannah Kearney won Olympic gold in Vancouver two years ago. Even so, she was more nervous in her qualifying run a couple days ago at the World Cup stop in Lake Placid, N.Y., than she had been in a long, long time. For one, Hannah said, "I'd had two absolutely worst days of training, back-to-back," in some measure because of the weather. The first training day, it had been 40 degrees, hardly conducive to snow. Then the temperature dropped to zero, with high winds that knocked out power and postponed training and turned the course into, in Hannah's words, "a skating rink."
Then there was the matter of family, and friends. Generally speaking, Hannah competes in Europe. The last time her younger brother, Denny -- with whom she's particularly close -- had seen her compete was at the December, 2009, Olympic Trials in Colorado. But he had made it to Lake Placid. So, too, had her mom, Jill, and dad, Tom, and a bunch of others.
As she has done at every World Cup event for the last year without a glitch, Hannah Kearney came through. She roared through qualifying, then won the event in Lake Placid, marking her 11th consecutive World Cup moguls victory -- beating the old record of Swiss star Conny Kissling.
It was the 16th individual moguls win of Hannah's career.
In a bit of serendipity, this 11th straight victory came on the same Whiteface Mountain course where the streak started on Jan. 22, 2011.
For counting purposes -- the streak does not include the 2011 world championships, where Hannah took second in the moguls and third in the dual moguls events.
It's 11 straight World Cup events, and while it perhaps may not equal one Olympic gold it is testament to extraordinary consistency.
"It's completely different," Hannah said when asked to compare Olympic gold with this streak, adding a moment later, "There's more attention and more focus at the Olympics. But skiing well over multiple seasons against good competitors is something totally different. It's just one day at the Olympics. This is my whole life."
For several months now, Hannah has been documenting her life in a series of Facebook posts -- you can find them here -- for Lovering Volvo, a family-owned Nashua, N.H., auto dealership that sponsors her. She gets an XC60 equipped with a ski rack and bike rack, a major step up from the Toyota Yaris that used to be her ride. In return, among other things, she writes a quality blog -- hardly a surprise, perhaps, for someone who goes to Dartmouth when she's not running moguls and whose brother is a Yale graduate.
In those posts, for instance, Hannah has documented the 1,174 water jumps she made in training last summer; and the 68,092 stairs she climbed, skis in hand, to make those jumps. Those totals were all more than she had ever done before -- the better to achieve consistency this winter.
Hannah has written about how Subway sandwich shops in Finland smell exactly the same there as they do back home; about how it took 33 hours and 36 minutes to travel last month from Ruka, Finland, to Meribel, France; about the excellent jam that was her reward for all that travel; about how she, a veteran of the World Cup circuit, kills time by knitting, listening to National Public Radio podcasts, doing some laundry and maybe doing some online shopping. Oh, and some skiing.
It takes a real pro to win in Finland, where there is little daylight and this season almost no snow, and then again in France, where after that long trip the snow was abundant, and then again back home in Lake Placid, after crummy training and amid awful weather and in front of mom, dad, brother and everyone else expecting you to win.
Hannah Kearney is, at this point, a pro's pro.
If everyone she knows expects her to win -- well, she expects to win. "Anything less," she said candidly, "is a failure on some level."
Winning, especially on a bumpy mountain where one slip and you careen off course, is never guaranteed. Then again, when your heart and soul are truly in what you do, the winning comes a lot easier. And the idea of pressure is a lot different. You can embrace it instead of running from it.
"I appreciate what I am getting to do with this skiing career," Hannah Kearney said. "I love what I do."