SOCHI, RUSSIA (NBC) -
For athletes at the Olympics, handling the pressure of competition is one of their biggest challenges; a reality that American freestyle skier Hannah Kearney has dealt with at two Olympics with very different results.
After winning gold in Vancouver four years ago, Kearney returned to her hometown of Norwich, Vermont where she was celebrated with a parade and the governor proclaimed "Hannah Kearney day."
“In Torino, I had never felt more nervous in my entire life. I sort of denied that it was the Olympics. I was just going to focus on my skiing,” Kearney said.
“But it turns out, that's not the Olympics. That's not the Olympic spirit. It didn't work for me. And I made a mistake in my first run and got third to last place. And my career has been different ever since then,” she said.
“My transformation between Torino and Vancouver was physical and mental and emotional. Got me into the gym, got me working and training a lot harder. Tapping into my potential.”
“I had skied arguably the best run of my life at the moment it counted. So at that point it was just satisfaction and redemption regardless of what the result ended up being. So yes, multiple fist pumps,” Hannah said about her run in Torino.
“You always think there could be more and that's part of what makes athletes successful that they are driven to keep performing,” she said.
“Gold medal in Sochi, going out on top, makes me a happy person,” said the Olympic mogul skier.
Kearney looks to defend her top spot in Sochi. She'll start Feb. 6 with the mogul qualifying rounds.