Kearney snatches gold from Heil

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By Deborah Charles

Displaying nerves of steel as the fiercely partisan hometown crowd went wild at the thought of Heil winning Canada's first Olympic gold on home soil, Kearney stuck to her own gameplan and improved upon her qualifying-round performance.

Racing just after Heil and last in the women's finals, the American zoomed down the bump-filled course and landed her two aerial tricks -- a back flip and a 360-degree twist -- cleanly before finishing in the fastest time of the day.

Upon crossing the line, Kearney punched the air, screamed and jumped around in a hug with compatriot Shannon Bahrke, who took the bronze.

Kearney, with a winning score of 26.63, had vowed not to repeat the mistakes made in Turin, where she was heavily favored but did not make it to the final round.

"I feel for Jenn," Kearney said after her win.

Heil, who had been racing with the weight of the Canadian nation on her shoulders as the host nation hoped she would be the one to break a gold medal drought at home, said she was still proud of her result.

"I did what I wanted to do," she said. "That gold is coming soon."

Canada have never won an Olympic gold medal on home soil after staging the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary and the 1976 Summer Games in Montreal.

(Editing by Miles Evans)