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    Wednesday, February 18, 1998

    Canadian air farce

    Aerialists fly, flip and flop in final

    By CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun
      They came here as the kings of the mountain, but Canada's aerial freestylers were paupers when it came time to climb the podium.
     Returning to the scene of their dominating performance at last year's world championships, the Canadians were shut out in their hunt for medals in the finals of the freestyle aerials event.
      Defending world champion Nicolas Fontaine of Magog, Que., could do no better than 10th, while Ottawa's Jeff Bean was 11th and Toronto's Andy Capicik 12th in the 12-man final.
     Veronica Brenner of Sharon, Ont. -- who had qualified third -- was ninth on the women's side.
     Americans captured both golds with Eric Bergoust -- who scored a record total of 133.05 points on his first jump, which included perfect sevens from three of the five judges -- taking the men's, and Nikki Stone the women's.
     "Really, after my first jump, I thought the best I could do was a third. I was really happy with my first jump, I didn't think I could do it better," said Fontaine, who said he knew he was in tough when he heard Bergoust's score.
     "I was disappointed with my score and I think it affected me on my second jump.
     "My coach was looking at me, saying, 'Don't think about it,' but some of the other skiers were telling me I got screwed on the points. I was wondering what I had to do to make the podium. It was hard for me to understand why there was such a big difference between our two jumps."
     Fontaine, who had been struggling with his landings all week, fell backward at the completion of his second jump.
     "I was late rotating the first flip, and that made me late on the two twists," he said. "I had no time to get ready for the landing."
     Bean, in his first Olympics, was solid on his first jump and sitting in sixth place. But for the first time this week, he missed his landing on his second jump.
     "I could have gone with an easier jump, but I had to go for it," said the 21-year-old, who should be a medal threat in 2002 in Salt Lake City.
     "Since the first day of training, I had been landing them and it was great in the semi-final. I don't regret the choice, though it's a little hard to swallow right now."
     The conditions were difficult, with a swirling wind, and that forced Brenner to downgrade her jump.
     "I basically dropped a twist," she said. "I wound up going about a kilometre (per hour) faster than what I wanted (into the jump), but there wasn't anything I could do about it."
     The result was she caught too much air, went too far on her finish and fell backward on the landing.