Alla Tsuper of Belarus got the medal she’s been chasing for 16 years.
Sport: Freestyle skiing
Event: Women’s aerials
Medalists: Alla Tsuper (Belarus), Xu Mengtao (China), Lydia Lassila (Australia)
SportsMyriad projections: Xu Mengtao (China), Lydia Lassila (Australia), Danielle Scott (Australia)
How U.S. fared: Ashley Caldwell had the highest score in qualifying at 101.25. She went for a big jump in the first final, which cut the field from 12 to eight, but she slammed her back on the landing. Her 72.80 was not enough to advance.
Emily Cook squeaked through qualifying at 80.01 and was again just above the cut line in the first final with an 82.21.
What happened: Both Russians wiped out in the first final. They were eliminated, along with Caldwell and Australia’s Danielle Scott. The best to that point was Alla Tsuper of Belarus, the five-time Olympian who finished fifth in the 1998 Olympics and fourth in the 2007 World Championships but never earned a major medal. Could the 2002 World Cup champion add another bit of hardware 12 years later?
The second final trimmed the contenders to four, and Cook wasn’t the only one with trouble on the landing. Xu Mengtao (China) and Lydia Lassila (Australia) were solid, scoring 101.08 and 99.22. Li Nina, second to Lassila in 2010, clinched her spot at 89.53, and Tsuper ended China’s hopes of a sweep with an 88.50 to Cheng Shuang’s 87.42.
The four-person final: Tsuper (degree of difficulty: 4.050) flat-out nailed it. The next two did not. Li Nina (difficulty: 4.425) landed on her side, nowhere near standing up. Lassila (3.900) got her skis on the ground but tumbled onto her back. That left world champion Xu (4.175), who stayed on her skis but so nearly toppled backwards. Up to the judges and … no! It’s Alla Tsuper with the win, then Xu, then Lassila.
And spare a thought for Ashley Caldwell, who posted the highest score of the whole competition but finished 10th.