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Czech Wins Aerials Gold, Pack Takes Silver

posted: 01/01/2000

Deer Valley, Utah Feb. 19, 2002 (AP by Eddie Pells)--A stunning fall dropped defending gold medalist Eric Bergoust of the United States from first to last in the aerials finals Tuesday, allowing Ales Valenta of the Czech Republic to win gold.

Hometown favorite Joe Pack, a football and soccer star at nearby Park City High School, won the silver and Alexei Grichin of Belarus won bronze.

Valenta nailed a revolutionary quintuple-twisting, triple backflip on his second jump. It was only the second time he had tried it in competition, and the first time he landed it.

The Czech star assumed he would need the jump to defeat ``Air Bergy,'' the quirky perfectionist who was a heavy favorite to repeat.

Bergoust led all competitors after the first jumps, 130.38 to Valenta's 127.04. He was the final of 12 jumpers in the second round on a cold, windy day at Deer Valley Ski Resort.

It was a loose jump, nothing like what he normally displays, and he landed flat on his back. He stood up, a glazed look of shock painted on his face, while his American coach, Matt Christensen, looked on stunned.

His score was just 88.11, by far the lowest of any jumper.

Valenta won with a total score of 257.02 to 251.64 for Pack.

Bergoust said he took too much speed on the run into the jump, got too much air, over-rotated and probably overdid it because he didn't want to be conservative.

``The scores were huge,'' Bergoust said. ``Ales Valenta put up a huge score. I wasn't going for silver.''

It marked the first time Bergoust had finished out of the top 10 in 13 months and only the third time in the last 2 1/2 years.

When Bergoust fell, Valenta hugged his coaches, knowing his huge gamble had paid off.

Meanwhile, the big Joe Pack cheering section erupted. Their guy took silver after a difficult lead-up to the Olympics, in which he needed a coaches' discretionary pick just to make the U.S. team.

Pack gave the United States its 19th medal of the Olympics, leaving it one short of the goal the United States Olympic Committee set for the games. Three of the medals have come from freestyle _ Shannon Bahrke and Travis Mayer both won silver in moguls.

Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press

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