DEER VALLEY — Hannah Kearney wasn't sure she was ready to ski dual moguls after returning to competition just a month ago.
The defending Olympic champion, who lacerated her liver, broke two ribs and punctured her lung while training in Switzerland in October, banished any doubts with a thrilling dual mogul victory over the No. 1-ranked mogul skier in the world in front of more than 5,000 people at Deer Valley on Saturday night.
"I haven't dualed since March and the last dual I lost and they're always more challenging and anything can happen," said Kearney, who won her second straight mogul competition by edging Canadian Justine Dufour-Lapointe, who leads the overall World Cup standings. "So I was a little nervous to come back, but it was time to ski duals and I felt really confident."
Kearney said once she started skiing Saturday night, she felt at ease.
"I did feel comfortable throughout — sometimes too comfortable," said Kearney, who beat teammate Heidi Kloser, fifth-ranked Nikola Sudova and Kazakhstan's Yulia Galysheva to reach the finals where she faced Dufour-Lapointe. "That probably meant I should have gone faster, but it's a really fine line between skiing too fast and too slow, and I think I found the right blance."
Dufour-Lapointe ended up losing control near the bottom of the course and missed the second jump.
"She was pushing herself too hard," she said. "I know she wants to beat me in duals, but you know what? I want to beat her just as much."
Galysheva edged American skier KC Oakley for third place.
The men's race was even closer than the women's battle with reigning Olympic gold medalist Alex Bilodeau earning the win over Patrick Deneen by the slightest of margins.
"It was a real tight dual," said Deneen. "I'm really excited about the way I skied tonight. The courses were pretty uneven, so to keep it close with Bilodeau was, in my eyes, a victory. I'm really happy with the way I'm skiing and hopefully I can keep it going for the rest of the year."
Deneen was thrilled to share the podium with American rookie Bradley Wilson, who earned his first World Cup podium by edging Russian Alexandr Smyshlyaev for third place.
"Honestly, I can't even explain it," said Wilson of earning his first World Cup podium. "It's a dream come true to do it here at Deer Valley, my home mountain. I came in here needing to get a podium to qualify for world championships later this year. It's really one of those things that you can't really explain."
Wilson was the 2012 Rookie of the Year with eight top 10 finishes — two of those fourth place. He also had a fourth-place finish in duals earlier this season. To earn his spot on the podium Saturday, he had to beat Canadian Mikael Kingsbury, who'd earned 19 straight podiums, including a win Thursday night on the same course, and had a No. 1 ranking.
"It's one of those things that comes with the sport," said Wilson of ending Kingsbury's streak. "Two people come in and one person comes out victorious. Mikael is one of the best skiers I've ever seen. But in that dual, I had nothing to lose and a bunch to gain. Luckily for me, I was able to hang on and come out with a victory."
Both Deneen and Wilson said skiing dual moguls helps develop speed.
"To be honest, it's the guy next to you," said Wilson of what pushes athletes. "My best results have been in duals so far, in my career. Just having that guy next to you to push you to that limit is the key — to go as fast as you can, it pushes you to the edge. Also, if he's hanging on, you can hang on too. In singles you don't have that."
Bilodeau was pleased with his win, but disappointed he didn't get to race his teammate in the semifinal.
"(Kingsbury) is the guy to beat right now," said Bilodeau of his 20-year-old teammate. "Unfortunately bad luck happens, and I’m sure we'll see him in another race. Brad had a great run, and Patrick the same thing. It was definitely challenging."
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