U.S. aerialist Cook wins Moscow night event


The U.S. Ski Team's Emily Cook picked up her first World Cup win Saturday night, flying off a towering scaffold under challenging weather conditions in downtown Moscow. Tahoe native Scotty Bahrke was fifth for a career best. Over 30,000 spectators were on hand, including Russian President Vladimir Putin.
    Cook, fourth after the first jump, won under the most challenging of conditions when many of the top World Cup contenders faltered. Heavy winds, low snow and very little training were all factors. The 2006 Olympian stayed focused and hit two of the best jumps of her career.
MOSCOW, Russia — The U.S. Ski Team's Emily Cook picked up her first World Cup win Saturday night, flying off a towering scaffold under challenging weather conditions in downtown Moscow. Tahoe native Scotty Bahrke was fifth for a career best. Over 30,000 spectators were on hand, including Russian President Vladimir Putin.
    Cook, fourth after the first jump, won under the most challenging of conditions when many of the top World Cup contenders faltered. Heavy winds, low snow and very little training were all factors. The 2006 Olympian stayed focused and hit two of the best jumps of her career.
    On the men's side, Canada's Steve Omischl secured the World Cup aerials title by winning his fifth event of the season. Omischl scored 240.32 points and edged Stanislav Kravchuk of Belarus, who was second with 236.45 for his second podium appearance this season. Nicolas Thepaut of France finished third with 156.71 points.   
    ''I definitely won the overall aerials [title] now,'' said Omischl. ''It's the hardest thing, I think, to win in this sport. It's a big honor for me.''   
    Omischl, the 2005 world champion, leads Anton Kushnir of Belarus by 84 points with one event remaining next week in Davos, Switzerland. Kushnir was 12th Saturday after falling on his second attempt.

Incredible feeling of first win
"This is an incredible feeling," said a jubilant Cook in the finish. "I knew that some day my first World Cup win would happen. It's really rewarding to go out and perform your best and be on the top of the podium. I was shocked. Really and truly, you just focus on your jumps and take it one jump at a time. I was at the bottom and had no idea I had won."
    "Emily just did a super job," said U.S. freestyle head coach Jeff Wintersteen. "She did the absolute best she's ever done – two great jumps in difficult conditions. She clearly had the two best women's jumps of the night."
    Cook went out on her first jump with a full-full, two flips with a twist on each flip. But knowing that the strong headwinds would continue, Cook and coaches strategized to go more conservative on the second jump to ensure a podium.

Strategic decision leads to victory
"It was a strategic idea to downgrade her on her second jump just to get a top three," said aerials coach Matt Christensen. "It turned out perfectly. She jumped perfectly and just blew everyone away to take the win."
    Cook's second jump, a lay-full including two flips with a twist on the second, was executed nearly perfectly to ensure the win.
    "We had a huge headwind all day and not enough inrun speed," said Cook. "We were just trying to figure out how to get the speed we needed. I had planned on full-double full-full on the second jump. When I headed up, Matt said we were still on. But at the top, we decided to be smart and make the wise choice. And it worked.
    "And we'll definitely be ready to throw big DD next week!"
    It has been a long road for Cook whose quick rise early in her career was cut short with a horrible accident just prior to the 2002 Olympics. She shattered both feet and ankles training in Lake Placid. Many surgeries later, she came back to compete in Torino in 2006. But a win had eluded her.

Career best for Bahrke
Bahrke used a full-double full-full (three flips with four twists) to get into the finals, and nailed a full-full-full (three flips with three twists) to take fifth. It was a career best, coming just three weeks after a sixth on the Olympic venue in Vancouver — also under challenging conditions.
    "Man it was crazy here. It was awesome!" said Bahrke. "We have a giant building right next to us and the crowd was phenomenal.
    "The wind was crazy. Currdog [coach Brian Currutt] had to push me from the top and then I used ski poles to keep up my speed. And we needed two coaches to slingshot Dylan [Ferguson] down the inrun."
    Bahrke got some extra motivation from the crowd. "It was the coolest thing ever, just looking down and all you can see is lights and heads," he said. "It was definitely the coolest day of jumping I ever had."
    Cook said the size of the crowd and atmosphere didn't sink in until after the competition, "… which was good. It's absolutely amazing. I'm looking around – we're in downtown Moscow, there's thousands of people, there's one of the country's best pop bands playing, the President is here and it's incredible for our sport."
    Cook also felt the event in Moscow was somewhat of a turning point for the U.S. aerials team. "It was especially nice to see everyone come together here," said Cook. "And this win really shows how our team is starting to rebuild and move toward Vancouver."
    The FIS Freestyle World Cup now heads to Davos, Switzerland, for the final aerials event of the season next Friday.

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