WEST VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Hannah Kearney waited four years to overcome her bitter disappointment. Canada will have to wait at least one more day before it can really let loose.
The 23-year-old from New Hampshire slashed through the rain and down the moguls last night - a remarkable run that gave America its first gold medal of the Vancouver Games and denied Jenn Heil the honor of becoming the first Canadian to win gold on home turf.
Heil came in as the favorite on paper - winner of her last four World Cup events - but this one really wasn't close. Kearney scored 26.63 points to win by .94 - a wide margin in a sport often decided by tenths and hundredths.
She won in a blowout four years after coming in as the favorite but stumbling in qualifying for a 22nd-place finish that left her crying at the bottom.
American Shannon Bahrke took bronze.
Kearney has insisted all along that she was more mature, more able to turn her brain off and simply ski than she was four years ago in Italy, when she came in as the defending world champion and was out of the running before she even reached full speed.
Not this time.
She pulled off a back flip on her top jump and a 360-degree spin on her second, her legs knitted tightly together on both. Logging the fastest time - 27.86 seconds - didn't hurt anything, and when Kearney made it across the finish line, she knew it - pumping her fists and waiting for the score that would prove to be a blowout over Heil, the defending Olympic champ.