Emily Cook, Ashley Caldwell and Lacy Schnoor of the United States are all world-class athletes, but if you’re anything like most of America, you have no idea who they are. The three ladies are Freestyle skiiers, and all three advanced to Wednesday evening’s women’s aerials Olympic finals at the close of today’s qualifying round.
Of the 12 athletes who advanced to the women’s aerials finals, Emily Cook had the highest score of the qualifying American women, with a total of 180.25 for her two attempts. Her score landed her in fifth place, one slot above teammate Lacy Schnoor’s sixth place finish. Ashley Caldwell eeked into the finals in 12th place, with a total score of 162.34.
Ashley Caldwell, 16, is a former gymnast and the youngest member of the 2010 US Winter Olympic team, according to NBC broadcast commentators. The native Virginian crashed during her first attempt in 2010 Olympic competition, but landed her second jump successfully as her parents looked on, squeezing into the finals by 1.08 points over 13th place finisher Nadiya Didenko of Ukraine.
Emily Cook, 30, has a long history in women’s aerials, having started her career in 1995. She qualified to compete in the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, but sustained massive injuries to both feet during a training accident and was forced to give up her spot on the team. After succesfully rehabbing her injuries, Emily Cook went on to take 19th place in women’s aerials at the 2006 Torino Olympics. During a quickie in-event interview today, she called the aerials hill “good enough” but admitted that she’s “relying on my training over the years” to do well in the finals.
The final Team USA member to make the finals, Lacy Schnoor, is a 25-year old Utah native, who, like most of the women’s aerials field, has a background in gymnastics. She’s relatively new to the sport, but performed well during the 2009 season, taking seventh place in the World Championships. Lacy Schnoor earned her spot on Team USA by winning the Olympic Trials.
The fourth member of Team USA, Jana Lindsey, 25, finished in 17th place and failed to make the finals. Also not making the final round was defending Olympic champion Evelyne Leu of Switzerland.
The top qualifier in 2010 Olympic women’s aerials action is Belarussian Alla Tsuper, who dominated the rest of the field with a combined mark of 195.76. Tsuper’s first attempt scored an impressive 105.64, which was the highest score of the qualifying round by more than 4 full points. Tsuper was followed in the rankings by a trio of Chinese women in Li Nina (known as ‘the Snow Princess’), Guo Xin Xin and Cheng Shuang.
Women’s aerials, which involve athletes skiing up a hill and then executing a series of impressive mid-air jumps and twists, is a fusion of speed, height and form, according to NBC broadcasters.
Women’s Aerials Qualifying Round Results, NBC Olympics
Lacy Schnoor Biography, US Ski Team
NBC Broadcast Coverage, Women’s Aerials Qualifying Round, February 20, 2010