Mount Buller, Australia Sept. 8, 2001 (USSA)--Defending World Cupchampion Eric Bergoust (Missoula, MT) ignored horrendous conditionsSaturday to win the 11th aerials event of his career, opening theOlympic season in a snowstorm at Mount Buller that forced officials tolower the allowable degree of difficulty for both men and women. AussieJacqui Cooper won the women's event.
"It's a miracle they even held it," said a weary U.S. HeadCoach Matt Christensen, who was part of the coaches, volunteers andorganizing staff who were out shaping jumps before 6 a.m. to pull-offthe opener, which had been postponed from July because of poor snow. "Itwas blizzard-like conditions, snowing so hard. ... an absolute horrorshow."
Limited by the degree of difficulty cap due to the badweather, Bergoust landed a double-twisting-triple (only two twists andtwo flips) and received 104.90 points from the judges. Second andthird place went to Canadians, Kyle Nissen (101.25) and Andy Capicik(98.00). Next U.S. aerialist was Britt Swartley (Blue Bell, PA) inseventh place with Mariano Ferrario (Park City, UT) 11th, Joe Pack (ParkCity, UT) 14th and Corey Hacker (Boston, NY) 19th.
"Conditions were brutal..."
In the women's event, Cooper -- who won both opening eventstwo years ago on her home hill -- received 91.87 to 86.94 for Nina Li ofChina. Tracy Evans (also Park City) had the top U.S. result, finishing8th.
"There were some serious crashes. Conditions were brutal,"Christensen said, noting Aussie co-favorite Alisa Camplin had a badbeater and finished 24th. "There were discussions during both the men'sand women's events about the safety, but I guess the bottom line ispeople want to go to the Olympics and they'll compete in bad conditions.
"The women's comp was horrendous and the men's weather wasworse, but they organizers stayed at it and pulled it off. TV was liveand they blew off a swimming meet, and you know how big swimming is downhere, to cover all of what was going on here. It's the first timethey've lowered the DD degree of difficulty for the men."
Bergoust kept his focus. While athletes were understandably cautious about theconditions, he said, Bergoust "stayed smart. He's so strong mentally. Ilearn so much from him. He just said, 'Y'know what? This is good. I cando this.' He has such mental toughness, such focus."
Jerry Grossi (also Park City), coming back from a brokenright femur, was docked points when he balked at making a jump when agust of wind hit him as he approached the kicker. "It was the rightdecision for him. Jerry was perfectly right not to jump in that case,"Christensen said. "The athlete has that final call and he made it, andhe was right." Grossi finished 28th while Brian Currutt (also ParkCity), who pulled a groin muscle at midweek, was hobbled and finished29th.
The opening weekend is scheduled to continue Sunday beforethe schedule takes a couple of months' break before resuming Dec. 1-2 inTignes, France, with two moguls events.