How Hannah Kearney Went From Student to Olympic Skier
Most teenagers spend their high school balancing stuff like pop quizzes, SAT prep, and prom. But Olympic athlete Hannah Kearney'sexperience was different; she had to juggle schoolwork and mogul skiing (with nearly a 4.0 GPA!). She went to her first Olympics at 19, won gold four years later, and fully cemented her spot in skiing history along the way. But it wasn't all easy—there were a few, uh, bumps along the way. See how Hannah went from overachieving student to trophy-winning athlete here.
What were you like as a teen?
I was wildly competitive and energetic and I had an insatiable appetite. I took both my schoolwork and my athletics very seriously. I played soccer, and ran indoor and outdoor track and field for my high school, even after I made the U.S. Ski Team at the end of my sophomore year. I had lots of friends at school and through sports, but I wasn't very social outside of these activities because I traveled so much for skiing.
As an adult, what do you wish you could tell your teenage self now?
Relax...and learn how to use a computer. Teenagers are supposed to have fun; I have always been driven and serious, but perhaps I did not need to spend every single free moment during high school studying in a cubicle in the back of the library. I wished I had not stressed so much about getting straight A's and instead tried some other activities besides sports.
How exactly did you get to where you are now, professionally?
During my sophomore year, I qualified for the U.S. Ski Team. After that, I balanced skiing, school, and school sports. I graduated with a 3.97 GPA despite missing about half of a year of school during my time at Hanover High. This meant I photocopied pages from many textbooks and sometimes completed math assignments in between competition runs.
At age 19 I represented the U.S. at the 2006 Olympics. The following year, I had knee surgery for a torn ACL and I missed the entire season. In 2010, I experienced ultimate redemption when I won the United States' first gold medal of the Vancouver Games. One of my proudest accomplishments is winning 16 World Cup Competitions in a row between 2011-2012. I retired on the day that I won my 46th World Cup.
I now go to college in Salt Lake City, since I just barely completed my freshman year of college at Dartmouth while I was still competing.
What's one thing you wish had known then that you know now about having a career?
I still don't know anything about having a professional career in the "real world." I found an activity I was willing to pay to do and turned it into a successful athletic career. I believe this is the definition of a dream job. The problem is that I retired from this job before my 30th birthday. Now I am hoping to find as much satisfaction in my next career.
What work advice do you have for teens or for young people just starting out?
When you find something that you enjoy to do, work hard at it because it is far more rewarding to push yourself and discover you are capable of more than you imagined. I also recommend being flexible and willing to adjust your dream in order to take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves along the way.