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(NECN: Jack Thurston, Norwich, Vt.) - The hometown of Olympic mogul skier Hannah Kearney wished its favorite skier well at a send-off party Tuesday. Kearney, who won a gold medal in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, is scheduled to compete in the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia in a few weeks. Before departing, the mogul skier visited her elementary school in Norwich, Vt.
"On the United States Ski Team, I am the only athlete who still lives in their home town," Kearney told children at the Marion Cross Elementary School.
Kearney sits atop the World Cup standings. Aside from her gold medal, the mogul skier's most distinctive accessories may be her pigtails which poke through her helmet during competitions. "Thank you for supporting me," Kearney told students and faculty of the school she attended as a little girl.
Students sang songs, cheered, and sent Kearney off to Sochi with high-fives and construction paper medals, hoping she'll bring the real thing back to Norwich from next month's Olympics. "I hope she wins," beamed student Emma Taylor, 11.
"I hope she's going to get a gold medal," added Taylor's classmate Lauren Pidgeon, 11.
School principal Bill Hammond told New England Cable News that Kearney is a regular at town events. She shops at Norwich’s general store, Dan & Whit's, and supports other Norwich institutions. "People are very proud of her," Hammond said. "The students were very excited to have her here today, but she's very humble about her accomplishments."
This week, it was revealed Russian authorities are hunting terror suspects who may be looking to disrupt the games with suicide bombings. Despite the threats, Kearney told NECN she has complete confidence in the security and purity of the Olympics. "There's so much focus and attention internationally on these games that they will do everything they can to make it as safe as possible," Kearney said. "I'm confident I, and my family, will be safe."
The reigning champion has said she will not compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, explaining she has a lot more she wants to accomplish in her life and education than more grueling training allows.
Vermont can be sure that after Sochi, spending more time close to home with her family and friends will be one of Hannah Kearney's top prizes. "My hometown of Norwich and my New England roots are always with me," Kearney said, smiling.
The women's moguls qualifying runs are scheduled for Feb. 6.