Hannah Kearney: A Trailblazer in Moguls Skiing
U.S. Ski & Snowboard is highlighting HERoic trailblazers throughout our winter sports, both past and present. A HERoic trailblazer is a woman athlete who has gone above and beyond in her sport, moving the sport forward through grit and determination and inspiring the next generation of women athletes.
Hannah Kearney, alumna of the Stifel U.S. Freestyle Ski Team, is the epitome of a HERoic trailblazer. From her numerous accomplishments on the slopes to her work with the International Ski Federation (FIS), International Olympic Committee (IOC) and beyond, Hannah has changed the sport of moguls and paved the way for future generations of athletes.
Hannah’s story has been one of success from a young age. She was born and raised in Norwich, Vermont, and her parents quickly taught her to ski by the time she was two years old, using a horse halter as a harness. In high school, she found herself in state soccer and track championships while claiming four Junior World Championship titles in moguls. No matter what sport she set her mind to, she pushed herself and those around her to be their best.
Once she started competing on the World Cup full-time during the 2003-04 season, she made an immediate impact. She secured her first World Cup podium in December of 2003, and by the end of the 2004-05 season, Kearney became a moguls World Champion.
In 2006, Hannah made her first Olympics appearance as a gold medal hopeful but unfortunately did not make it past qualifications. In 2007, she suffered a significant knee injury and had to undergo surgery, but that didn’t stop her from returning to the slopes as soon as she was cleared. She persevered and had her most successful seasons yet, earning the 2009 moguls Crystal Globe.
A Story of Perseverance
Leading up to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Kearney won an Olympic trial event and changed her mindset and goals surrounding the Olympics. She knew to succeed, she would have to go into these games in a different headspace, leaving her past behind her. Hannah cemented herself in history at the 2010 Olympics when she won the gold medal with almost a whole point between her and second place.
But she wasn’t done yet. Kearney accomplished the near impossible during the 2010-11 and 2011-12 World Cup seasons. She was unstoppable for more than a year, winning every competition she started from January 2011 to February 2012. Her 16 consecutive victories, beat Ingemar Stenmark’s record for the longest FIS World Cup winning streak across all disciplines, and the streak led her to her first World Cup overall Crystal Globe in 2011. That season, she also secured her second moguls Globe and two additional medals at World Championships. Despite suffering broken ribs, a lacerated liver and a punctured lung during a training run in 2012, Kearney set her mind to coming back stronger. Throughout the rest of her 13-year career, Hannah earned a bronze medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics, two more World Championships medals, seven more Globes and 16 additional World Cup wins, including a win in her final World Cup start before retiring in 2015.
A Lasting Legacy
As an athlete and in retirement, Hannah has been involved in her community and with the next generation of skiers. She has served as an athlete mentor, committee member with the IOC, co-chair of the FIS Athlete Commission, a U.S. Ski & Snowboard Board of Trustee member and U.S. Ski & Snowboard Foundation Athlete Gift Officer. All of these efforts are geared towards empowering the next generation of skiers and ensuring they have the opportunity to succeed. On top of this, Kearney is a personal trainer, starting her own business called Fitness from Afar during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic to give those without equipment, trainers or facilities access to exercise routines for any ability level. She also just had a baby with her husband! Lula Max Morse was born on July 11, officially kicking off the next generation of moguls skiers.
Hannah is a champion of the winter sports community, and her story is an attestation to the power of determination, perseverance and drive. Kearney set the bar for the future of moguls skiers, and set it high. Her continued dedication to the community and future generations of athletes is inspiring, and her legacy will continue to impact the future of her sport for years to come.