Olympics: U.S. qualifies three women aerialistsTweet
CYPRESS MOUNTAIN, BC (Feb. 20) – It’s been a week since competition began at the Vancouver Games. With moguls skiing and snowboard cross and halfpipe events in the books, Cypress Mountain (an hour’s drive from downtown Vancouver) has turned its attention and any available snow, to the aerials events. With near perfect, sunny conditions today, the women jumpers got at a feel for the venue during a qualifying round.
After two jumps, Belarusian jumper Alla Tsuper led the way with a back layout, full, full (the highest degree of difficulty jump of the day) that scored a whopping 105.64. Her second jump added 90.12 points to put her more than four points ahead of her nearest rival. The 2002 overall World Cup champion and four-time Olympian will now look to earn her first Olympic medal.
The always strong Chinese jumpers then filled the remaining top four qualifying spots as defending silver medalist Li Nina (this season’s World Cup overall title winner), Guo Xinxin and Cheng Shuang qualified 2,3,4.
“I didn’t do my best because in the day the temperature changes. I think in the finals at night I will do better,” said Li who has the motto ‘Too young to live, too young to die’ scrawled on her skis. “I will see how my competitors do. I have a trick I haven’t taken out. I’ll base it on my competitors.”
Americans Emily Cook and Lacy Schnoor led the American effort, qualifying fifth and sixth, respectively.
“I’m happy to put two solid jumps down,” said Cook, at her second Olympic appearance. “I’m looking forward to jumping again in a couple of days.”
Cook, who was forced to sit out for the final three World Cup competitions of the season with a bruised heel, is coming into the games having not jumped competitively since mid January.
“Obviously you guys know that I haven’t been training the last two weeks. So I’m relying on my training from the last few years,” said Cook, who is taking her tricks up a notch anyway. “I upped my degree of difficulty. I’ll definitely do another triple twisting double.”
Schnoor, the U.S. Olympic trails winner, has had mixed results since her Christmas Eve Trials performance, was feeling good after the qualifying round and is ready to step up her tricks for the final.
“I’m feeling great. I’m feeling confident going into the final,” said Schnoor. “I have harder tricks I can complete. I can get a podium with those. I’ll do a jump with more difficulty, so I plan to do two triple twisting doubles.”
American youngster, Ashley Caldwell, 16, also qualified for Wednesday’s finals grabbing the final spot in 12th position.
“It’s day by day and I’m freaking out,” said Caldwell. “My coach tells me to chill out, but I’m like ‘Oh my God I’m at the Olympics’.”
“It’s pretty amazing. The course workers are doing an incredible job,” said Caldwell of the area that has been plagued by warm weather and rain over the last few months. “It blew my mind how beautiful the course was. I’m definitely loving my first Olympic experience.”
The highest ranked American woman coming into the Games, two-time Olympian Jana Lindsey, was eliminated from the final with a 17th-place qualification result.
Canada’s only entrant, Veronika Bauer, who suffered a concussion here only a year ago and defending gold medalist Evelyne Leu of Switzerland were also eliminated from the final round with a 15th and 16th-place results.
The women’s final round will be held Wednesday, Feb 24 and 7:30 pm. Olympic freestyle skiing action continues tomorrow at Cypress with the debut of ski cross. The men’s qualifying round will begin at 10:30 am with the finals starting at 1pm.
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