Wednesday, February 18, 1998
Canucks flop in freestyle aerials
"That's the Olympics," said Jeff Bean of Ottawa. "It's for the one-day wonders."
The Canadian aerialists came into the Nagano Games with six world championship and World Cup medals (including two gold) to their credit.
They leave with only a question mark.
World champion Nicolas Fontaine of Magog, Que., finished 10th. Bean was 11th, and Andy Capicik of Toronto was 12th and last.
Eric Bergoust of the U.S. won the gold with a world-record score of 255.64 points for the two-jump final. Sebastien Foucras of France took silver and Dmitri Dashchinsky of Bulgaria was third.
In the women's event, Veronica Brenner of Sharon, Ont., ended up ninth after qualifying third for the medal round.
American Nikki Stone won the gold, Nannan Xu of China was second and Colette Brand of Switzerland took the bronze.
The sun didn't come out until after the race, but about 5,000 fans stood in the cold to watch these ski gymnasts twist in the air. Last year, on the same hill, Canadians won five medals at the world championships.
Few could explain why the team was shut out for the first time in memory.
Even vaunted moguls star, Jean-Luc Brassard of Grand-Ile, Que., -- the defending Olympic, world and World Cup champion -- could manage only a fourth-place finish week.
Brenner, who was World Cup champion in 1996-97, blew the landing of her low-scoring first jump. With Stone and the other medallists hitting high-scoring triple twists and somersaults, Brenner found herself almost 30 points behind the leaders going into the final jump.
The men were a different story.
One Canadian fan carried a huge red flag decorated in big white letters with: Can't Beat Canada. Fontaine agreed, saying the judges didn't score his jumps appropriately.
"I thought my first jump was excellent but the judges didn't score it well," Fontaine said. "It affected my concentration for the second jump.
"I was disappointed with the score they gave me ... maybe a little too disappointed."
Fontaine started with a back full somersault, followed by a double full front flip. The jump looked good and the landing was sound, but Fontaine was third entering the last jump of the medal round. He tried for another difficult leap, but missed the landing.
"That's a jump I've had a hard time with all season," Fontaine said, who chose a difficult leap to gather more points. "I didn't know what to do to get points."
Bean and Capicik were in the same boat, so to speak, and didn't make much of a splash.
Bean didn't impress the judges and Capicik went back to his roots, which cost him.
"I made a rookie mistake," Capicik said. "I gave a little too much. I've been really jumping well this year, it just didn't work out."
Bean, like Capicik, said he tried too hard -- this is a sport where going too fast down the hill or in the air is bad -- but he had no regrets.
"It's a little hard to swallow right now," Bean said. "But in a couple of weeks I'll look back and know I made the right choice. I had to go for it."