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  • canada sked medal results SLAM!  NAGANO

    Tuesday, February 17, 1998

    Stone takes women's aerials gold

     IIZUNA KOGEN, Japan (AP) -- Nikki Stone won America's fourth gold medal of the Nagano Games as she soared, flipped and twisted to victory in the women's aerials.
     Stone, 26, of Westborough, Mass., nailed both her back somersaults to top the 12-woman field with a total of 193.00 points Wednesday (Tuesday night EST).
     China's Xu Nannan took the silver with 186.97 points and Colette Brand of Switzerland got the bronze with 171.83.
     It was the United States' second gold medal of the games in freestyle skiing, following Jonny Moseley's victory in men's moguls last week.
     "My dreams, everything I've dreamed of since I was 5 years old, I was in a gym saying, 'I'm going to win a gold medal some day,"' Stone said. "I can't believe it."
     "I'm on cloud nine," she said. "I'm walking on sunshine."
     In the men's competition later in the day, the United States had two gold-medal contenders in Eric Bergoust and Britt Swartley.
     Stone had the highest score on the first jump, earning 98.15 points for near-perfect execution of a trick called a back full double full -- a triple twisting double somersault.
     She was just as clean on her second jump, a lay tuck full, or single twisting triple somersault. As soon as she landed cleanly, she knew it was good enough to set her up for gold.
     Stone pumped her arms like a windmill, screamed in jubilation, held her skis aloft and rushed to hug her coach. The second jump earned her 94.85 points.
     But the victory wasn't assured until the final jump by Xu, who was the leader in the qualifying round. Xu came up with a great back full double full, laying on her back in celebration.
     The jump earned the highest score of the day, 99.40 points, but the total wasn't enough to surpass Stone. When the total was posted, Stone hugged Xu.
     Stone, the 1995 world champion and current leader on the World Cup circuit, nearly retired from the sport after failing to qualify for the final at the Lillehammer Olympics four years ago. She has also struggled with a series of back injuries.
     As it turned out, Stone was the only woman in the competition to do a triple somersault, a trick that only men were performing a few years ago.
     Stone's two jumps earned the second- and third-highest scores of the day.
     "She just wanted to have the time of her life," said her boyfriend, Michael Spencer. " I can't even speak words and I didn't even do anything."
     Another Chinese medal contender, Ji Xiaoou, withdrew from the final after suffering a knee injury in a training jump. Carried on the arms of coaches and teammates, she watched the competition from a chair at the bottom of the landing slope.
     Ji posted the highest women's score ever in winning a World Cup event in Canada last month and had planed to perform the hardest jump of the day -- a double twisting triple somersault.
     The competition was held in snowy and windy conditions. Jumpers often waited for the wind to die down before taking off, with a few even pulling up at the last moment before going off the "kicker" ramp that shoots competitors 40 feet into the sky.
     Jumps were judged for takeoff, height and maneuvers in the air and landing.


     IIZUNA KOGEN, Japan (AP) -- Final results Wednesday from the freestyle aerials medal event at the Winter Olympics:
     1, Nikki Stone, Westborough, Mass., (98.15, 94.85), 193.00 points.
     2, Xu Nannan, China, (87.57, 99.40), 186.97.
     3, Colette Brand, Switzerland, (87.88, 83.95), 171.83.
     4, Tetiana Kozachenko, Ukraine, (81.49, 85.83), 167.32.
     5, Alla Tsuper, Ukraine, (82.18, 83.94), 166.12.
     6, Hilde Lid, Norway, (74.82, 85.36), 160.18.
     7, Guo Dandan, China, (89.81, 69.93), 159.74.
     8, Yuliia Kliukova, Ukraine, (68.76, 84.39), 153.15.
     9, Veronica Brenner, Canada, (60.75, 90.40), 151.15.
     10, Olena Yunchik, Ukraine, (56.84, 82.21), 139.05.
     11, Michele Rohrbach, Switzerland, (61.48, 67.88), 129.36.
     12, Ji Xiaoou, China, DNS.