Looking toward Sochi Olympics
LAKE PLACID – After crisscrossing the globe on their way to incredibly successful seasons on snow, two Olympic veterans will be spending much of the offseason in Lake Placid.
A native of the Adirondacks, United States biathlete Tim Burke of Paul Smiths is already back home after wrapping up the most successful winter of his career. Vermont resident Hannah Kearney will soon be returning to her home country after nailing down a second-straight overall World Cup moguls title Friday with a win in a duals race in Spain.
Burke and Kearney are both two-time Olympians, and in less than 10 months they are expected to be in the medal hunt at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. They spoke to the media Friday in a teleconference organized by the United States Olympic Committee.
While in Lake Placid, the two world-class athletes plan to enjoy being away from competition during the warm summer months, and at the same time, continue preparations for success in Sochi. Burke finished his competitive season Sunday with a fourth-place finish in the winter’s final IBU World Cup race in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia.
“I returned home to Lake Placid after almost five months on the road,” said Burke, who returned to the Adirondack Mountains on Tuesday. “From November until now, I spent five days at home. It was great to get back home, but I was expecting it to be a little warmer. I still felt like I was in Siberia.”
Like Kearney, Burke appears to be heading into the next Olympics with a head of steam after having his best season on the World Cup circuit. He finished in the top-five six times on the tour while winning a bronze medal. He also captured a silver medal at the world championships in the Czech Republic, which marked the first time in 26 years a U.S. biathlete reached the podium in the event.
“This was clearly the best season of my career,” Burke said. “I accomplished everything I wanted to do with a world championship medal, finally getting back to the World Cup podium and meeting the criteria (to qualify for the 2014 Olympics). That silver medal was a big turning point to me.”
The winter began horribly for the 26-year-old Kearney, who spent five days in a Swiss hospital following a training crash that resulted in a bruised liver and fractured ribs. But the Vermonter, who was riding a 16-event win streak heading into this past season, didn’t seem to miss a beat upon her return to competition. That day came at Whiteface Mountain on Jan. 17 as the moguls sensation landed on the top step of the podium.
Last month, Kearney claimed her second world championship title at the FIS Freestyle championships in Norway, and in the process she became the most decorated World Cup skier in history.
Following another record-setting season, Kearney has her sights firmly set on defending the Olympic moguls gold medal title she earned at the 2010 Vancouver Games. Kearney said it will be the last time she will compete at the Olympics.
“First of all, I did not know I was the most decorated World Cup skier,” Kearney said just hours after her victory in Spain. “I’ll look into that more. It’s shocking. It was nice that I got back at it in Lake Placid because I competed there 12 times.
“I will be retired in 2018. I may ski one more year (after Sochi) … depending on how I feel,” Kearney continued. “Lake Placid has been crucial for me. At the OTC (Olympic Training Center), I get free lodging, I have access to the water ramps, and I have access to acrobatic coaching, which was a main reason I train there. I was not comfortable being upside down.”
Kearney said in addition to staying in Lake Placid, she will also spend time during the offseason on snow at Mount Hood in Oregon, Chile, Peru and Switzerland.
“I’m always so comfortable staying in Lake Placid,” Kearney said. “I will live in Lake Placid this summer and continue to train. To me, it’s just like a second home. When I’m there, I’m in a great state of mind.”
When asked whether he plans on continuing to compete after the 2014 Olympic Games, Burke replied that he’s not looking any further than next season at this time.
“I’m going to focus all my energy toward competing in Sochi,” Burke said. “2018 is not really on my radar right now. I’m totally focused on the Sochi Games and then I’ll see after that.”