The two-time Olympic medallist certainly won't need those ski pants with the decorative knee patches where she's going next — the classroom. Following a decade of schooling the competition on bump-riddled courses, the 29-year-old Kearney is stepping away to work on her degree at Westminster College in Salt Lake City.
There's still one more event on the docket: U.S. freestyle championships at the end of the month in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. A final hurrah and an opportunity to donate her gear to aspiring moguls youngsters.
Then, she's done for good. More than likely, anyway.
"I guess if the mood strikes me, I may show up (at a World Cup competition)," Kearney said, laughing, during a conference call Monday. "I know, from my own feelings, it's really hard to leave behind a sport you love and a lifestyle I have become completely accustomed to. I've dedicated myself to the sport for over a decade and I'm not really qualified to do anything else. It's something I'm good at, too.
"But I am planning on retiring."
And while she's unsure of what her next move may be, she does know this: You won't see her at the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea. Not as a competitor anyway, possibly as a commentator or to root on teammates.
For all intents, her competition days closed over the weekend with a World Cup win in a dual moguls contest in France. It was the 46th victory of her career and tied her with American Donna Weinbrecht for most career moguls wins.
Quite a way to go out, too, especially since she captured the season title in both moguls and the overall freestyle race. That pairs nicely with the Olympic gold medal she won at the 2010 Vancouver Games and bronze from the Sochi Olympics last winter.
She's left behind quite a legacy, even if she takes no credit for it.
"I will not make claims about moving the sport. That was never anything I was trying to do," said Kearney, who lives in Norwich, Vermont. "All I was trying to do was be the best I could. ... I never felt like I was pushing anything."
Yet, she was typically the one to beat.
"When she's determined, nobody else in the world has a chance against her," moguls coach Garth Hager said.
That's why Weinbrecht had a feeling her record would one day be matched — or even broken — by Kearney. Weinbrecht jumped on the conference call and congratulated Kearney for her storied career. There wasn't much overlap between these two as Weinbrecht was leaving about the time Kearney arrived on the scene. But they've chatted frequently at ski events.
"Watching her from a distance, it was an amazing journey to see," Weinbrecht said.
Now, Kearney's embarking on the next chapter of her life.
"I'd like to think I haven't been able to find my next passion because I've put so much time toward this sport," Kearney said. "With all the free time, I'll find the next thing I'm good at and love if I'm lucky."Suggest a correction