Speedy and the Hurricane

U.S. skier nails the hardest trick in men's freestyle aerials, but flubs the landing for seventh place

By Toheeb Alejo, Scholastic Kids Press Corps

Thursday, February 23—America's last hope for a gold in men's freestyle aerials came in seventh here today, but his smile was that of a winner. 

Jeret "Speedy" Peterson "did the hurricane."

To "do" Peterson's signature trick takes a jump of 50 feet above the ramp. It includes five twists inside three somersaults, completed in three seconds of air time. It is the toughest trick of the trade. 

Peterson handled it beautifully, but he didn't nail the landing, losing points when he had to use his right hand to keep from sitting down.

He was hoping that being the first aerialist to successfully nail a hurricane in Olympic competition would win him a medal.

Instead, because of the landing problem, medals went to China, Belarus, and Russia.

Han Xiaopeng of China took the gold, Dmitry Dashinski of Belarus the silver and Vladimir Lebedev of Russia won the bronze. 

None of this dampened Peterson's spirit, however.

"It's great. It's awesome. I love it," Peterson said of his time at the Olympics. "It gets my adrenaline going. It's absolutely everything I love about freestyle aerials. It's the one thing in my heart that I can't find anywhere else." 

No Win, But Cook's All Smiles

Top U.S. aerialist out of women's freestyle, not out of spirit

By Emily Faber, Scholastic Kids Press Corps

Sunday, February 19—For four years, U.S. athlete Emily Cook worked to be her very best at the 2006 Winter Olympic Games. But her devastating injury while training two weeks before the games put it all in jeopardy. It didn't stop her, though.

On Sunday, Cook skied in qualifying rounds for the freestyle women's aerials. She came into the competition as the top ranked woman, but after her injury she was unable to hold maintain her position. She messed up on her landing and didn't make it into the finals, but she was all smiles at the bottom of the hill.

"I will not, in any way, let a little tumble ruin this experience," she insisted. "No way."

That's the Olympic spirit. 

Australian Jacqui Cooper showed that same spirit after similar problems, but with different results. She came in with the highest score, placing first. 

Cooper is 33 years old. She was injured during a ski crash at the games in Nagano, Japan, eight years ago. She tore up her knee four years later while training for the 2002 games in Salt Lake City, Utah. Now, she's in the finals. 

"I waited eight years for this moment," Cooper said. "Every day, I've dreamed about it, thought about it."

The finals are set for Wednesday, February 22 at Sauze d'Oulx, Italy. The other top skiers in this event were China's Xinxin Guo and Nina Li. 

American Jana Lindsey also failed to qualify. In the 2005 World Championships, Jana Lindsey finished in 10th place. Of the six aerialsts on the freestyle team, including the men, only Jeret "Speedy" Peterson has advanced to the finals. 

The finals for the men is set for Thursday, February 23. 

The Lone American Skier

Freestyle skier Jeret Peterson makes the qualifying round in men's aerial

By Toheeb Alejo, Scholastic Kids Press Corps

Monday, February 20—After the qualifying round in the men's aerial event, Jeret "Speedy" Peterson will be the only American representing the U.S. team in the final round. It was a disappointing finish for the U.S. freestyle team—they are considered one of the best in the world.

Defending silver medalist Joe Pack failed to make it to the top 12 to qualify for the next round. Eric Bergoust and Ryan St. Onge also missed the top 12 spots. Peterson will ski in the finals, which will be held on Thursday, February 23. In competition, he will face Xiaopeng Han of China, who led the qualifying round.

Aerial is an event in freestyle skiing. In the competition, a skier jumps off a ramp and executes a move of his choice, including different flips and twists that can send him up to 60 feet in the air. Seven judges are divided into two groups. Five judges critique the takeoff and the execution, while the two remaining judges calculate the landing. 

The takeoff is worth 20 percent of the score, the execution is worth 50 percent of the score, and the landing is worth 30 percent of the score. When the skier is finished, the scores are calculated and multiplied by the degree of difficulty to obtain the final score.