Whoever said sport is a great leveller
might have been talking about people from all walks of life coming together in
the crowd, but they could also have been talking about the emotional
rollercoaster experienced by those competing at the highest level. Nowhere is that more apparent this morning
than in the Australian women’s aerial skiing team – overnight they experienced
elation and despair, all in the space of 15 minutes.

With a difficult triple backward somersault
on her first jump, and a safer but equally well-executed second jump, Jacqui
Cooper last night set a new world record (213.36) in the semi finals, putting her at the top of the
field going into the gold medal competition.

But no sooner had she landed, unclipped her
skis and headed off to the media centre than team-mate, close friend, and fellow medal chance
Lydia Ierodiaconou slipped into the air for her second jump only to mistime her
landing.

The cost was obvious to
spectators immediately, with a cry of pain audible to all present and
Ierodiaconou left clutching her knee. Officials rushed to her aid, removing her
skis, before taking her away on a stretcher. Unfortunately for the 24-year-old,
it’s her second major knee injury in 12 months.

As the SMHreported this morning, Ierodiaconou underwent radical allograft surgery, where
her own knee tendon was replaced with that from a donor cadaver, last June. She
had been a racing against the clock to be fit for the Games, and last week
reported she was feeling confident heading into competition.

Alisa Camplin,
Australia’s other medal hope in the event, did her best to balance out the
team’s fortunes. After an average first jump, Camplin landed her second to
qualify tenth for the final. Liz Gardner, the fourth member of the team, failed
to make the cut.

While Australia remains
in good shape to claim a medal in the event, the sport of aerial skiing has
upheld its reputation as one of the most punishing an athlete can compete in.
If Cooper or Camplin win medals, it will be after overcoming serious injuries
themselves.

Peter Fray

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