Deer Valley, Utah Feb. 9, 2002 (AP by Eddie Pells)--Freestyle moguls skier Shannon Bahrke put America in the medals column Saturday, winning the silver behind gold-medal winner Kari Traa of Norway.
Bahrke was considered the second-best hope to win America's first medal. The American favorite, Hannah Hardaway, struggled to a fifth-place finish.
Tae Satoya of Japan, who won the gold in her home country in 1998, took the bronze this time.
Bahrke was nearly flawless, whipping her way through the bumps and making the smooth transitions from the daring jumps back to the hard-packed snow.
She performed a helicopter iron-cross for one of her jumps--a full revolution with the tips of the skis crossed, all the while looking straight back toward the top of the hill.
When it was over, Bahrke went crazy, shaking her head, and pumping her fists wildly.
She had to wait for four more skiers to go--including Hardaway and American Ann Battelle (seventh), and each time Bahrke saw a score lower than hers, she breathed deep, not quite believing she might win the whole thing.
That hope came to an end when Traa took to the course last.
The Norwegian is the pre-eminent jumper of the last year, and she easily beat Bahrke with a run she didn't appear to be excited about. After crossing the finish line, she simply skied off to the side, without raising a hand in celebration.
Despite the second-place finish, this felt a lot like a victory for the Americans, who have set 20 medals as their goal for these Olympics.
``We want to win medals on everything we can,'' freestyle coach Jeff Wintersteen said. ``But we had a lot of people coming up to us before this, saying, `Get off to a good start.' So, yeah, I guess this one is pretty important.''
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