Melbourne’s Alisa Camplin was unable to
successfully
defend her gold medal in the women’s aerials at Torino overnight,
but her bronze medal was braver than brave.

As was vividly reported in today’s media, a
horrible knee injury to team-mate Lydia
Ierodiaconou in the preliminary round cast a pall over the Australian camp that
Camplin, and especially Jacqui Cooper, could not shake off.

The dramatic end of
Ierodiaconou’s Olympic prospects was actually a stark reminder of how dangerous
some of the Winter Olympic events are, and how mentally strong competitors must
be.

Camplin’s bronze shows
just how tough the willpower behind that chewing gum-selling smile must be.

Having set a world record in the
preliminary rounds, Cooper could not finish among the medals and the Fairfax
reporter on-site, Jacquelin Magnay, would not have been surprised, having
written this before the final:

Cooper, 33,
was with Australian journalists at the time (of Ierodiaconou’s fall), excited
about her performance after nailing a triple-twisting triple somersault. She
said it had taken eight years “to finally get my stuff together.” But when
watching her teammate, Cooper collapsed to the ground with her hands over her
ears to shut out the screams echoing throughout the hushed crowd.

“Oh, my God,” said
Cooper. She had experienced similar trauma four years ago when she tore her
anterior cruciate ligament during practice before the Olympic Games, an injury
that kept her out for two years.

No wonder then that Cooper wasn’t able to
come out blazing in the round that mattered. The frightening thing is that
coaches watching the event said Ierodiaconou’s only fault appeared to be
lifting a little too high into the air and landing slightly more heavily on her
left leg. That’s enough to smash a knee, admittedly one that had already been
surgically repaired. Given Camplin also struggled to make the Olympics after
similar knee surgery in October, you start to get a feel for the physical toll
aerial skiing takes on its competitors.

The women’s aerial was won by Switzerland’s
Evelyne Leu, who remained true to
her motto: “Go big or go home.” China’s Nina Li won silver.

Peter Fray

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