"I'm so happy. I feel so much gratitude. ... That's a weight off my body. I have been waiting for this moment forever," Anderson said Sunday.
Set free from what the 23-year-old rider admitted was intense mental and physical pressure, Anderson became the golden girl of the moment. Defy gravity to win the slopestyle competition, which is a mash-up of snow and playground equipment, and your next cool trick is landing a seat next to Matt Lauer on the "Today" show.
And then the clock starts running on your 15 minutes of fame.
A few days short of her 28th birthday, Kearney has been abruptly shoved from the mountaintop of her sport and now must figure out what to do with the rest of her life. She won gold skiing the bumps during the 2010 Winter Games at Vancouver. But with one wrong turn in competition Saturday night, the defending Olympic champ finished third, behind two sisters from Canada.
"It's really disappointing to read headlines ... 'Oh, the favorite let two other people beat her,' " Kearney said.
The Winter Games are a sausage factory. That's not a cynical view. That's just the way it is. Do you really want to know how the sausage is made?
The Olympics are a multibillion-dollar sports industry built on relatively cheap labor combined with the starmaking power of television to make a kid-from-nowhere, red-white-and-blue American a success story. It's like "American Idol," except the contestants ski rather than sing.
The five Olympic rings are cogs in a powerful sports machine. The athletes? They're disposable parts who can go from top-of-the-world heroes to anonymous zeros in the blink of a television camera's eye.
"I won a gold medal four years ago. It was downgraded to a bronze. And my Olympic career is over," said Kearney, who shed big tears after her third-place finish.
With rare exceptions, Olympic athletes do not work under the same spotlight or in the same tax bracket as NFL quarterbacks. So what a gold medal could do for Kearney in terms of fame or fortune is almost beyond everyday words.
Snowboarding, however, lives a language of its own. "Spoice" is defined as an exclamation of pure gratitude for a life suddenly filled with a multitude of blessings.
"I love the spoice!" Anderson said.
Ride the wave as long as possible. While fame will follow basketball superstar Michael Jordan and boxing legend Muhammad Ali beyond the grave, most Olympic gold medalists quickly fade from the public eye. For athletes at the Winter Games, the once-in-a-lifetime moment leaves a lot of living to fill.
"Athletes have emotions, because we care and we train for these moments. Like life, things don't always go as you plan. The 'go big or go home' aspect is huge in our sport and the Olympic Games too. I am proud of myself because I did go for it. I didn't lose the Olympics because I skied a conservative run or held back," said Kearney, who will soon start classes at Dartmouth in the search of a passion to replace the adrenaline rush of skiing moguls.
"I have this dream of what I ultimately want my life to be like, and it involves a lot of quaint activities like cooking and canoeing and camping and hiking. But none of those seem very profitable, so I don't have a plan for how I'm going to support myself before I get to that point."
Kearney could try sticking around for the 2018 Winter Olympics. But, to be brutally honest, Kearney isn't certain she could wait so long for the risk of being so harshly disappointed again.
"I know I could be good at a lot of different things, but I'm not sure what my next passion is. I think that's because I've committed basically 90 percent of my time and my life to mogul skiing. It's hard to let anything else in," Kearney said. "I don't know what else I'm good at. I don't know what I'm meant to do. But that's going to be the next project, figuring it out."
Waiting at the start of her run, Kearney felt something powerful inside. It was fear. It was opportunity. And, quite frankly, it made her tummy hurt.
That pit in the stomach is the pressure of being a disposable Olympic hero.
Once in a lifetime doesn't come around very often.
And the spoice doesn't last long.
Mark Kiszla: firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/markkiszla