Reuters - Fri, 26 Feb 04:26:00 2010
Alexei Grishin of Belarus defied low expectations and a rival's high difficulty jump as he twisted through the air in the men's aerials to win his country's first ever Winter Olympics gold.
Three days ago many believed Belarus' aerials gold medal hopes were over after Anton Kushnir, the World Cup leader and overwhelming favourite to win Olympic gold, crashed and failed to qualify for the finals.
"Some of my friends told me that a lot of people thought that Belarus had no hopes to win the Olympic Games. It's not true. There are more guys on the team who can make it," Grishin said.
When he set off for his final run the 30-year-old Belarussian proved immune to the pressure laid down by American
Jeret Peterson who had just landed the hardest jump performed by any of the men in the freestyle competition.
"I was up there and said to myself, 'I have to do it'." Grishin, in second place after the first round of jumps, cleanly landed his quadruple twisting triple back flip to move ahead of Peterson and take the gold. After landing Grishin bent over and pounded the snow in excitement.
But the Belarussian had to wait to see if he had won gold until Canada's Kyle Nissen completed his last jump. With the fiercely partisan, flag-waving crowd yelling 'Go Canada, go', Nissen sailed down the hill and completed a slightly less difficult jump than Grishin. But his legs bent and his score dropped him down to fifth overall.
Peterson, who came into the final run in fifth place, pulled off his signature "Hurricane" jump - three head-over-heels flips and five twists - to win the highest score of a single jump.
The American came down the hill roaring after landing his jump. But after finishing fifth in the first run, his two jump combined total was not enough to win and he took the silver.
"I'm ecstatic. I've had trouble landing it this year," said Peterson, whose jump had a degree of difficulty of 4.9 points out of 5. "This is the best day of my life to finally land the Hurricane in competition, especially in the Olympics."
In the 2006 Olympics Peterson performed the Hurricane but was penalised for a bad landing and finished seventh.
China's Liu Zhongqing, one of a growing number of high calibre Chinese aerialists, won bronze.
Factbox on Grishin:
Place of birth: Minsk, Belarus.
Residence: Minsk, Belarus.
Previous Olympic results:
Bronze, 2002 Winter Olympics, Aerials
Fourth, 2006 Winter Olympics, Aerials
Gold, 2001 World Championships, Aerials
Silver, 2003 World Championships, Aerials
Bronze, 2005 World Championships, Aerials
Grishin began the sport at the age of eight after his mother saw a newspaper advertisement seeking freestyle skiers and took him along.
The 30-year-old, whose gold was the first for Belarus in a Winter Games, was once a gymnast, specialising in trampoline.
He finished 10th in this season's World Cup aerials standings.
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