"That has always been the goal, the Olympics. When I first saw the Olympics, I knew I wanted to be a part of them," Hannah Kearney said.
On a snowy day in Vermont, less than a week after returning from Sochi, Kearney has a brief moment to reflect on her most recent Winter Games.
"The blue signs all over Norwich that say 'Hannah, Norwich's Olympic pride' make it feel a little more special this time around," she said.
And the bronze medal she brought back with her from Russia is a constant reminder that Kearney is one of the best mogul skiers in the world.
"It is a beautiful souvenir," she said. "It represents how hard I fought in a day that was a challenging competition for me."
But bronze is not the spot on the podium that this Norwich native was expecting. After all, she was the reigning gold medalist and skiing at the top of her sport.
"My performance in the Olympics was really disappointing," she said. "It was a big mistake. It is hard, I know, for some people to be able to relate to the disappointment because I did walk away with a bronze medal, which is fabulous. It is not the bronze medal I am disappointed about. In fact, I think I am very lucky to have made a mistake and get a bronze medal."
A slight kick-out during a turn on her final run was all it took for her gold medal dreams to be dashed. A mistake that Kearney says she replays over and over in her head.
"I have the footage; I haven't rewatched it because I am just not ready," she said. "And it is hard when I have been a really strong consistent competitor for the last four years to make mistakes when it matters most is what I am devastated about."
She articulated her devastation in a tweet after the event: "Bronze feels a lot like a broken heart." Failed expectations and raw emotions wrapped up into one simple sentence.
"All you can do is represent yourself in the truest, most authentic sense possible. And I have no regrets for that reason. I feel that I represented myself and my hometown well. I know that there are going to be people that think my wording could have been different or I could have held back my emotions, but as I said, I don't have regrets. Everything that I said was exactly how I felt. I certainly don't mean to come across as ungrateful. Those are some of the most hurtful comments, being spoiled and ungrateful because... " Kearney stopped, becoming emotional.
A quick break in our interview, like the tweet, is insight into the heart behind the skier. Something in the age of social media that we live in on display for the world to see.
"With social media you get the good and the bad," Kearney said. "You get the outpouring of support that would have never reached you otherwise and you also get the critiques. So, my experience with Twitter, to which I am a new user, has been like, what am I doing? I am just sharing random parts of my life, almost for no reason. I'm just asking for people to either make fun of you or give you a thumbs-up. Why do I need that in my life? But then it is special moments when someone like Grace Potter tweets at you and it's like, this is really cool. We have flattened the world."
That is, of course, unless we are talking about the bumpy terrain of the mogul course. And while this skier says she was hoping for different colored hardware to put around her neck, bronze is still hard to beat.
"It represents how proud I am to get a medal for the United States of America," Kearney said.
And if you think Kearney has time to savor that medal, think again. She leaves Tuesday for Japan, which begins five more World Cup events. Kearney says despite her third place showing in Sochi, she is still ranked first in the world and has a title to defend.
Friday, March 7 2014 10:55 AM EST2014-03-07 15:55:16 GMT
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