Mad to miss out on gold? I can relate

Julie Foudy talks with moguls bronze medalist Hannah Kearney about her third-place finish and her future plans.

SOCHI, Russia -- First, there was the smile as she crossed the finish line. Not that hell-yes-I-just-skied-the-best-run-of-my-life smile, but more a mild acceptance that after all these years of training, it may not be enough. And when the result appeared, so did the tears, slowly streaming down her cheeks in silent protest.

But it was the words American moguls skier Hannah Kearney posted on Facebook hours later that struck me the most:

Sochi Bronze. I regretfully report that I did not ski my best today and that it just so happened to be a very important event. After a gold medal four years ago, and an immense amount of training since, a bronze medal is not what I was dreaming of.

Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Hannah Kearney won bronze in Saturday's women's moguls event at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Raw. Honest. Vulnerable. Just as Hannah has been in the her nine years she has been competing for Team USA, a career that has included over 50 World Cup podiums, 37 of which were victories.

She is unlike many athletes we have seen over the years who stand awkwardly post-competition and produce a forced smile when they really just want to scream out loud for another chance, another opportunity to rewind the moment.

The world almost assumed Kearney would win gold -- she was that dominant. As the Boston Globe wrote just two days ago, "She competes with unmatched consistency, rarely missing a podium on the World Cup circuit and usually taking the top spot. From late February 2011 to late February 2012, Kearney won 14 straight World Cup events in moguls or dual moguls."

Not on this day. Not on this hill. Not when it mattered to her the most.

And in the rawness of the post-event moment, through her tears, Kearney said: "Right now, I would like very much to ski again. I think instead I will try my absolute best to let it go. I think it will help my happiness levels moving forward."

That is an emotion I know all too well -- that feeling where your stomach takes a free fall to the floor, yet all you want to do is let it go. Unfortunately, easier said than done; fortunately, you forge forward and grow stronger.

When our U.S. soccer team lost to Norway in the 2000 Olympic gold-medal match, after quite arguably the best final game we had ever played (World Cup or Olympics), my mother tried to console me with a big hug and a "Honey, I am so proud of you, silver or gold, it doesn't matter." Our team was favored to win gold. We came in with one goal in mind: to win gold. And we should have won gold (see ,I am over it). So when that dream, which is in the palm of your hand, is crushed, even a hug from the greatest mom in the world does not take away the sting.

Of course, once again, my stomach hit the floor in empathy as I saw Hannah here Sunday at the Main Press Center, less than 24 hours after her event, and she asked me, "I'm sure I'll relive that a few times in my mind. When does it go away?"

I couldn't stop myself from being just as honest as her and responded: Never.

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