To see Hagen Kearney cruising on his motorcycle one would not be surprised to learn he’s in a rock band.
The long, flowing blond hair. The bandana and sunglasses. The sleeveless Budweiser t-shirt. The girl hanging off the back. There’s evidence of all that and more on the Instagram feed for the Norwood (near Telluride), Colo. resident, who also spends much of his year in Salt Lake City.
What the images of Kearney on his Harley-Davidson or 1972 Shovelhead chopper don’t tell you, however, is that he’s a world-class athlete set to compete in his first Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.
Based on the pictures, you wouldn’t think Kearny is much of a gym rat. He’s far from the typical “jock,” but his No. 5 world ranking at the end of the 2016-17 snowboard cross season was no accident.
“I would say the amount of preparation before race day is the most intense part,” Kearney told NBC Olympics back in November about the things people don’t know about his sport. “The amount of hours in the gym it takes to build up the endurance to attack a boardercross course at 110% for four rounds with four to six guys next to you.”
Kearney and teammate Nick Baumgartner clinched a team gold medal in last year’s FIS Snowboard World Championships at Sierra Nevada. Both are on the U.S. team headed to the 2018 Games.
Kearney says snowboard cross sometimes gets cast as “dorky” or a “jock sport” among the snowboard community, as the sport is essentially a group race from the top of the course to the bottom and doesn’t have the same “style” elements as other disciplines.
SBX, as it’s often abbreviated, may not require the same time perfecting tricks, but the discipline required to succeed is no different, says Kearney.
“A lot of the athletes in our sport spend more time in the gym and probably can’t do most of the tricks that the freestyle community does, but not many of the freestyle guys could jump into a World Cup course and race against the best in world and be fast. It would take a lot of practice at least. It is a totally different skill set,” he told NBC.
Kearney’s workout regimen involves plyometrics and obstacle courses, anything that simulates the quick movements and stamina necessary in a SBX race. He also recently started incorporating laps on the pump track at the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Center of Excellence in Park City. It was built for skateboarding, and Kearney finds that doing segmented laps on the track builds up the cardiovascular strength and other skills necessary for his main event. Skateboarding is another favorite pastime of Kearney’s, and he has competed in skatercross races as well.
Rock musician, motorcycle enthusiast, skateboarder. Hagen Kearney is all of those. But he’s also one of the top snowboard cross athletes in the world, and he’ll be a favorite to medal in PyeongChang.
The men’s snowboard cross competition will be held Feb. 14.