Sun, Mar 20, 2005 - Page 22 News List

Canadian's rule men's aerials at freestyle event

AP , RUKA, FINLAND

Steve Omischl led a Canadian 1-2 finish in men's aerials and Nina Li won the women's event for China's first ever gold medal at the World Freestyle Ski Championships on Friday.

Earlier, Tomas Kraus of the Czech Republic and Karin Huttary of Austria won their finals by razor-thin margins to become the first gold medalists in the new ski cross event.

Omischl won the men's aerials with 258.98 points while runner-up Jeff Bean had 253.61, after competing on a snow ramp under the lights just south of the Arctic Circle in northern Finland. The Canadians also finished 1-2 in qualifying.

It was Canada's first men's aerials gold since 1997, and the sixth in the spectacular event since the inaugural worlds in 1986.

Alexei Grishin of Belarus, who was second ahead of Omischl in the 2003 worlds in the US, took the bronze medal with 246.19 points.

"This is the pinnacle of my career thus far," said Omischl, who won last season's World Cup aerials title but had to settle for second this year. "I had a great season last year, but those were all World Cups. This is the first time I've won a major event and going into next year with the Olympics I can't be happier, and feel more ready for that event."

Bean felt some pressure before the competition.

"To even have a chance to go to the podium I had to do two perfect jumps and I was able to do that," he said. "I couldn't have finished off the season better after having an up and down season."

Nina topped the women's final with 197.37 points. Evelyne Leu of Switzerland, winner of one World Cup this season, was right behind with 196.01 points to claim the silver. The bronze went to Xinxin Guo of China with 183.94 points.

"I felt good all season and wanted to win this badly," said Nina, who dominated the World Cup circuit this season with six wins in 12 events. "A new [Canadian] coach helped me with the small things ... new things that improved my confidence even more."

World Cup champion Jeret Peterson of the US placed 12th and last after falling on his second jump.

Olympic silver medalist Joe Pack of the US wound up 14th, and missed the final for the second straight championship.

Defending champion Dmitri Arkhipov of Russia and Xiaopeng Han of China, who was third in the World Cup standings, also missed the finals, finishing 16th and 20th in qualifying.

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