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Cook, St. Onge punch Torino tickets with aerials wins at freestyle trials

Cook, St. Onge punch Torino tickets with aerials wins at freestyle trials{mosimage}STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. – Aerialist Emily Cook, who gave up her Olympic spot four years ago after an injury in training, earned her second ticket to the Olympics Friday night and local favorite Ryan St. Onge clinched his own spot as each won the aerials competition at the U.S. Ski Team Olympic Trials for freestyle skiing.

NBC will televise coverage from the one-day Olympic trials — moguls in the afternoon, aerials at night — Saturday at 2:30 p.m. ET, while OLN will broadcast its report Sunday at 5 p.m. ET.

Competing under the lights at Howelsen Hill, Cook — the Gold Cup winner before the 2002 Olympics — won the renamed winner-take-all Olympic trials as she connected with a double-twisting, double-flip full-full and a single-twisting, single-flip lay-full. She had 169.59 points, with runner-up Kate Reed at 154.39 and then an eight-point drop to Lacy Schnoor in third place with 146.74.

‘Oh my God — this is so exciting. I can hardly believe it’ Cook said while alternating comments with embraces from friends after a lengthy hug with her father, who raised her after her mother died when Cook was 2. ‘This gives me new faith to move on.’

Cook — whose victory and automatic Olympic berth is another chapter in her compelling story — said she focused on her jumps, not worrying about what the competition was going to do. The one-day Olympic trials were open only to U.S. Ski Team athletes; seven women aerialists competed and 10 men — and both Cook and St. Onge led the qualifying round before taking charge in the final round.

‘These were two of my best jumps all year’ Cook said. ‘It was so exciting and now my next step is to get ready for all my opportunities to improve my training.’

St. Onge, who won his first two World Cup events a year ago and then captured the second meet of the current season, blew away the men’s field at Howelsen. He hit a pair of quad-twisting, triple somersault jumps (full, double-full, full and double-full, full, full) for 240.93 points. Defending World Cup champ Jeret ‘Speedy’ Peterson was second as he tried the same two jumps but had trouble on his landings and finished with 197.56. Olympic silver medalist Joe Pack was third (195.96).

‘Conditions were sketchy earlier in the week, so I wasn’t sure what I’d be able to do’ St. Onge said, ‘but I definitely didn’t back it down despite the conditions. I tried to do as much as I could.

‘We had extended training tonight and the weather was great, so I was able to get more DD [degree of difficulty for bigger jump attempts], and, obviously, this is great. I’ve got 40 family and friends here that I know of, so it’s a great night for me. I’m so glad I’ve officially got a place on the Olympic team.’

Jana Lindsey fell on her second jump. She was taken to Yampa Valley Medical Center. According to U.S. Ski Team Medical Director Melinda Roalstad, Lindsey suffered a concussion and was to be kept overnight for observation.

Earlier in the day, defending World Cup champion Jeremy Bloom and Hannah Kearney, the women’s world champion, earned automatic places on the 2006 Olympic ream as they won the moguls contest at the Park Smalley Competition Arena on Steamboat’s main mountain, Mount Werner.

The next World Cup event is Jan. 7-8 at Mont Gabriel, Quebec, followed by two more competitions in the U.S. Ski Team’s 10 Weeks to Torino series of major pre-Olympic events — the Chevrolet Freestyle International at Deer Valley, Utah, Jan. 13-14 and the Nature Valley Freestyle Cup Jan. 20-22 in Lake Placid, N.Y.

- Courtesy USSA News Bureau

U.S. Ski Team freestyle Olympic trials
Howelsen Hill
Steamboat Springs, Colo. – Dec. 30, 2005
Men’s aerials

1. Ryan St. Onge, Steamboat Springs, Colo., 240.93 points
2. Jeret Peterson, Boise, Idaho, 197.56
3. Joe Pack, Park City, Utah, 195.96
4. Eric Bergoust, Missoula, Mont., 1:85.29
5. Austin Cummings, Heber City, Utah, 163.85

Women’s aerials
1. Emily Cook, Belmont, Mass., 169.59
2. Kate Reed, Montrose, Colo., 154.39
3. Lacy Schnoor, Draper, Utah, 146.74
4. Jill Priest, Park City, Utah, 136.88
5. Jaime Myers, Boise, Idaho, 132.42

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