The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia got off to a rousing start on Feb. 6 as the women's freestyle skiing moguls event got underway.
The first round of qualifying took place, and it offered a potential glimpse into the future as the United States and Canada figure to engage in a battle to top the podium.
Defending Vancouver 2010 gold medalist Hannah Kearney of Team USA was impressive as always with a first-place finish in qualifying, but she was followed closely by Canadian sisters Chloe and Justine Dufour-Lapointe, who are gold-medal contenders in their own right.
Moguls can certainly be dangerous due to the high-flying tricks that are involved, so qualifying also featured several crashes and scary moments. With that in mind, Olympic viewers simply won't want to miss any of the freestyle moguls action moving forward.
In addition to the full qualifying results for the first women's outing in Sochi, here is a closer look at the storylines that dominated women's moguls on Day 1 of the 2014 Winter Olympics.
|11||Nikola Sudova||Czech Republic||20.38|
|20||Tereza Vaculikova||Czech Republic||17.46|
|24||Jee-Won Seo||Korea Republic||15.95|
|N/A||Jung-Hwa Seo||Korea Republic||DNS|
Defending Gold Medalist Hannah Kearney Starts Well
Kearney entered Sochi as the definitive favorite to win gold after doing so in Vancouver four years ago, and she proved deserving of that lofty status in qualifying by finishing first with a score of 23.05.
Kearney, who is also the world-cup leader in women's moguls, was nearly flawless in her initial run.
Not only did Kearney make it through the course quickly, but she also performed her back layout and 360 grab jumps to near perfection.
With that said, Kearney will have to rely on endurance in order to reach her ultimate goal. The new moguls format will make things more difficult for skiers with three runs in one day moving forward, but Kearney isn't concerned, according to Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times:
It's good for us. "I can say quite confidently that (Team USA is) the most fit, strongest team out there. We're as prepared as possible to handle several days of competition in a row. Also, being veterans is helpful because you learn to just go with the flow. It's peculiar that the very first time we try a format is on such a grand stage. But I don't think it will have a negative effect.
Kearney's supreme confidence has to be disconcerting for her competition. Provided she remains locked in and performs to her potential during the finals, she will be extremely difficult to surpass.
Dufour-Lapointe Sisters Fly Into Next Round
Who do you believe will win gold in women's freestyle skiing moguls?
If anyone is going to knock off Kearney, it may be one of the Canadian Dufour-Lapointe sisters.
After qualification, 22-year-old Chloe and 19-year-old Justine sit in second and third place respectively. It is a slight departure from their positioning on the world cup circuit, where Justine is second and Chloe is third behind lead dog Hannah Kearney.
In addition to Chloe and Justine, a third Dufour-Lapointe sister competed on Day 1 as well.
Although 24-year-old Maxime Dufour-Lapointe is unlikely to medal alongside her sisters, she finished eighth, which was good enough for the sisterly trio to advance to the finals together, according to Vicki Hall of the Calgary Herald:
All three Dufour-Lapointe sisters qualify for Saturday's moguls final with the middle child Chloe edging out the baby, Justine, for second— Vicki Hall (@vickihallch) February 6, 2014
Not surprisingly, all three Dufour-Lapointe sisters started their run the same way with a 360 jump. Chloe and Maxime followed that up with a back puck with position, although Justine changed things up a little bit with a back tuck.
It wasn't enough to get her past big sister Chloe in qualifying, but the sibling rivalry will be an interesting wrinkle once the finals kick off.
American Contender Heidi Kloser Suffers Injury
While most expected Kearney and two of the Dufour-Lapointe sisters to control the podium in Sochi, American Heidi Kloser was a popular pick to potentially play spoiler.
She is a distant fourth in the world cup standings, but the 21-year-old upstart has the skill necessary to reach that next level. Unfortunately for Kloser, a training run crash prevented her from attempting to qualify, according to Stacy St. Clair of the Chicago Tribune:
US moguls skier Heidi Kloser, ranked 4th in world, did not compete today after a training crash. Unclear if she will return to competition— Stacy St. Clair (@StacyStClair) February 6, 2014
Per Lindsay Jones of USA Today, it is being reported that Kloser suffered a knee injury:
Mogul skier Heidi Kloser of Vail taken off course on a stretcher after crashing during training run today. Teammates told it's a knee inj.— Lindsay Jones (@bylindsayhjones) February 6, 2014
It is unclear what her status is for the remainder of the competition, but the second qualifying run will take place on Feb. 8, which means that Kloser will still have a chance to make it into the finals provided she is healthy enough to give it a go.
Kloser's crash in training was a huge disappointment for moguls fans, but it was likely far more devastating to Kloser as she seemed extremely excited about the opportunity to compete in the Olympics:
If Kloser is unable to return to action, American Eliza Outtrim is the next woman up. She finished fourth in qualifying behind the top contenders, and while she hasn't had as much success as Kloser, perhaps she can surprise some people.
Even with two American contenders in place, Team USA supporters are holding their breath and hoping that Kloser's injury isn't a serious one.
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