Medal hope Sasha Zeltkov eliminated
By NEIL STEVENS -- Canadian Press
SYDNEY -- A Canadian gymnastics squad already reeling from an injury to Emilie Fournier suffered a further setback Saturday when Montreal's Sasha Jeltkov, co-ranked No. 1 in the world in the horizontal bar, failed to advance past the preliminary round in the event.
"We were expecting to reach the final," said Canadian coach Serge Castonguay.
Jeltkov's poor result came a day after Fournier learned she will be unable to compete due to torn ligaments and a small chip fracture of the ankle. Fournier injured herself in practice Thursday.
Jeltkov said he made "a few little mistakes that I didn't plan."
"The first release move was a little too close, which cost me 1-10th, and the dismount included a little hop that hurt me a little bit (with the judges). But, overall, I'm happy because I fought for it."
Jeltkov won the silver in the horizontal bar at last year's world championships and also won a World Cup event in March.
He'll try to regain his top ranking at the World Cup final in December. Until then, he'll have a lot of time to think about an Olympic experience that was much too brief for his liking.
Canada had failed to qualify a men's team during competitions leading up to the Games. Jeltkov and Kyle Shewfelt of Calgary had qualified for the individual events. But the lack of a men's team entry, combined with placement in the morning group, were handicaps in winning the judges' approval. As in figure skating, the early performances usually are marked to allow leeway for others to follow.
Jeltkov and Shewfelt realized that a 9.7 of the possible 10.0 from the judges would be necessary to advance to the finals. Jeltkov was marked at 9.662 on the high bar, and Shewfelt was marked at 9.575 in his specialty, the vault.
Shewfelt looked on the bright side.
"I'm very happy with my performance," he said. "I hit my vault and that's what I came here to do.
"I wanted to be in the final but now I don't care. I went to the Olympics when I was 18. I hit my routines. I dealt with the pressure. I mean, that's an accomplishment in itself."
Fournier, 17, of Iberville, Que., will wear an aircast boot so physiotherpists can work on the ankle twice a day. She's walking with the help of crutches.
"I knew right away it was serious," she said of the injury in talking to the media for the first time since the mishap.
Two years ago, Fournier suffered a stress fracture in her back. This was the last straw.
"I don't think I'll come back to try for the next Olympics," she said. "I don't want to do it.
"I want to move on and do something else."
She is considering athletic scholarship offers from U.S. schools. The Cirque du Soleil touring acrobatic troupe is another option she is considering, but she's leaning towards the university option because she'd like to complete her education. She has one year of high school remaining.
"I still think of myself as an Olympian," she said. "I'm one of the best athletes in the world. Injuries happen."
Fournier will be replaced by spare Crystal Gilmore of Cambridge, Ont.