Leu Outleaps Rival Li in Women’s Aerials
SAUZE d’OULX, Italy (AP) _ Evelyne Leu of Switzerland beat her Chinese rival to win the gold medal in Olympic aerials Wednesday, adding the last missing piece to an already stellar career.
Leu, whose last appearance at the Olympics was marked by a world-record performance in qualifying but a bust in finals, saved her best stuff for the right night at the Turin Games.
She landed a triple backflip with three twists on her second of two jumps and earned a score of 107.93 that put her in the lead with four jumpers left.
``I was still thinking it was enough for a medal, but not really for the gold,″ Leu said.
The rest of the field couldn’t catch her. Not defending Olympic champion Alisa Camplin of Australia, who finished third. Not Leu’s rival, Li Nina of China, who finished second. And not Guo Xinxin of China, who led after the first jump, but finished with a face-plant and fell to sixth.
``It was too much difficulty,″ Guo said.
There were no Americans in the finals. Neither Emily Cook nor Jana Lindsey made the top 12 in qualifying the night before.
Aussie Jacqui Cooper, who set the world record in qualifying, fell on both her landings and finished eighth. At 33 and having suffered injuries that cut short her previous Olympic trips, Cooper was the sentimental favorite among the finalists.
But she was no match for Leu, whose total score of 202.55 was 5.16 better than Li.
Leu, Cooper and Guo were the only three to attempt three twists in their jumps, as they soared 50 feet over the kickers into the foggy, late-night sky. Of those three, Leu was the only one to land it.
She jammed her skis firmly in the snow _ there’s nothing delicate in this sport _ and raised her fists to the sky as she motored down the hill.
The victory goes with an already full list of accomplishments on the World Cup circuit _ first place in Lake Placid, first at Mont Gabriel in Canada and first last year on this very same hill, to name a few.
Last year in the Italian Alps, it was Leu and Li who finished 1-2. Li has a similarly striking set of wins, so to beat her on the biggest stage certainly proves Leu earned it.
Camplin’s third-place finish gives her two Olympic medals and gives the Aussies their second of these Winter Games, to go with the gold won by moguls skier Dale Begg-Smith last week.
``To come away with two medals for Australia, I think we’re continuing to impress the rest of the world,″ Cooper said.
It’s quite an accomplishment given what Camplin has been through. She’s coming off a severe knee injury less than six months ago. More impressive is that in her first jump of qualifying, she tumbled down the hill on the landing, the kind of effort that usually signals the end for these jumpers, not a pending medal.
She overcame that with a solid second jump, then landed a pair in the finals to win the bronze.
``It’s the best third I’ve ever had,″ she said. ``This bronze feels as good as my first gold.″
Li’s silver is the eighth of these games for China, although the number could have been higher. She, Guo and Xu Nannan were 1-2-3 after their first jumps and had a medal sweep within their grasp.
Only Li came through big in the second round, though, sticking her landing with little problem. Xu’s jump was good, though there was a little dip of her backside in the landing, which may have accounted for the .16-point margin between her and Camplin for third.