PARK CITY — After mogul skier Hannah Kearney earned her Olympic gold medal in Vancouver two years ago, she contemplated retirement.
That is, until she watched video of her winning run.
"(Retirement) crossed my mind, came up on my list of options," said Kearney. "But I vetoed that pretty quickly after I watched footage of my run and thought, 'UGGHHHH! I could have (done) that better.' And the reason I continued skiing, and the reason I set a goal for consistency is that in winning the Olympics, I felt like I was on top of the world. It was a dream come true. But I just won on one day, and I didn't feel like I'd proved to myself that I was the best."
Kearney said when she reflected on the 2010 season, it was full of ups and downs.
"I went into last year wanting to improve on that," she said on the eve of competing in the FIS Freestyle World Cup at Deer Valley. "And the way I thought I could do that, was not only improving technically, just pushing myself, my speed, but to do it more often. And that's how I've been looking at the past two seasons."
That perspective has elevated her to the top of the world as she is undefeated this season and on a 12-race win streak. Her last loss, coincidentally, was at Deer Valley in last year's World Championships, where she lost by 100th of a point to the woman she beat in the Olympics the winter before, Canadian Jennifer Heil.
She admits she may never "prove" she's the best to her toughest critic — herself.
"It's a fine balance for an athlete in enjoying the moment and being really satisfied, say, with a run, and with your day, and knowing you can make it better in the future," she said.
Kearney said she is skiing well and seeking redemption from the hillside at Deer Valley. She is joined by some very talented teammates, as well as the world's best freestyle skiers, who will compete for critical World Cup points in moguls on Thursday and Saturday. The aerial skiers will compete Friday night. All of the finals will be held at night under the lights, something the athletes relish.
Deer Valley president and general manager Bob Weaton said the resort is honored to be one of the athletes' favorite stops on the World Cup tour each year.
"It's great to be a predictable stop on the tour, and the credit obviously goes here to the athletes," said Weaton at a press conference in which a memorial to three-time Olympian Jeret "Speedy" Peterson was unveiled. The tow rope that hauls aerial athletes back to the top of the run will be called "The Hurricane," which was Peterson's signature trick. It earned him the highest score ever in World Cup competition and an Olympic silver medal (2010). Peterson struggled most of his life with depression and committed suicide in July. His family and friends have established The Speedy Foundation in hopes of memorializing his passion for the sport and life in general (www.thespeedyfoundation.org).
For his teammates, it was a difficult moment to consider competing at Deer Valley for the first time without him.
"It's hard not having him on the hill," said Emily Cook, who announced she will not compete this weekend due to a calf injury. "At the same time, I consider it my responsibility to pass on all of those amazing qualities to all of the other (U.S.) athletes competing this weekend. … There are some amazing young athletes here this weekend."
The mogul final is schedule for 8 p.m. Thursday with the aerials scheduled for 7:45 p.m. Friday. Saturday dual moguls qualifying begins at 3 p.m. with finals set for 7 p.m.