Tsuper earns gold in women's aerials, U.S. fails to medal

The Sports NetworkFebruary 14, 2014 

Krasnaya Polyana, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - For Alla Tsuper, the fifth time was the charm.

Taking part in her fifth Olympic Games, Tsuper earned her first medal and it was gold as she won the women's aerials event on Friday in Sochi.

The 34-year-old Tsuper topped her previous best Olympic finish of fifth place, which came back at the 1998 Games in Nagano. The lone jumper of the final four to really stick her landing, the veteran from Belarus had a top score of 98.01 in the super final.

Xu Mengtao of China claimed the silver with a score of 83.50, topping Australian and defending gold medalist Lydia Lassila.

Americans Ashley Caldwell and Emily Cook both advanced to the three-jump finals after coming out of qualification earlier in the day, but Caldwell did not make it out of the first run and the 34-year-old Cook was then eliminated in the second final.

Caldwell had the top qualifying score of 101.25, which she posted in the first run. The 20-year-old recently returned to competition following a series of knee injuries, finishing second at the aerials World Cup opener on Dec. 15.

However, a low landing score held her back in the first final.

China was in position for a possible medal sweep when Xu, Li Nina and Cheng Shuang were 1-2-3 during the second final. Cheng was knocked down to fourth when Lassila posted the second-best score of the run and was then eliminated from the super final thanks to Tsuper.

Tsuper went first in the third final and stuck a landing that had a degree of difficulty at 4.050.

Li followed and the back-to-back Olympic silver-medal winner fell hard on her landing. She stayed down on the slope for a few minutes before eventually walking off, posting a score of 46.02.

Looking to claim her second straight gold medal in this event, Lassila also failed to stick her landing, falling backward to finish off a trick that was scored at 4.425 in terms of difficulty, the toughest attempted in the super final. She scored 72.12.

That left Xu to try and unseat Tsuper and though she managed to stay upright after nearly falling on her landing, she finished well behind Tsuper.

Xu finished sixth in Vancouver at the 2010 Games but won the 2013 FIS World Championships after having twice before finished second at the event.

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