No medals for Australia in women’s aerials

Melissa Woods |

Gold medal hope Laura Peel could only watch in envy as Xu Mengtao became Olympic aerials champion, landing a jump that the Australian has conquered many times in the last 12 months.

Xu became the first Chinese athlete to win an Olympic women’s aerials title with a brilliant jump of 108.61 points in the Super Six medal round while Peel had to settle for fifth after failing to stick her landing.

Just last month Peel scored a career high 118 points for a near perfect back full-full-full – the same jump as Xu – at a World Cup in Deer Valley that saw her arrive in Beijing as a raging gold medal favourite.

But in freezing conditions at Zhangjiakou she could only manage a score of 78.56.

Australia’s other medal chance Danielle Scott was similarly devastated after she finished in 10th spot, eliminated in the first final after she was also troubled by her landing.

The home crowd erupted as an estatic Xu screamed in delight after her jump as the only skier in the Super Six who completed it successfully.

Former world champion American Ashley Caldwell, who led after the first final, attempted the highly-difficult jump but like Peel couldn’t stick the landing and finished fourth.

Defending Olympic champion Hanna Huskova of Belarus was second with 107.95 and the bronze went to American Megan Nick (93.76).

World champion Peel, who also came fifth in PyeongChang, was consoled by Australia’s aerial royalty Alisa Camplin-Warner and Lydia Lassila.

“Pretty disappointed. I know I can jump a lot better than I can tonight so I wish I’d done that,” the 32-year-old said.

“I didn’t have any excuses. It was a big jump and I needed to stretch a little bit earlier and I waited until the last flip and that was a bit too late and unfortunately I couldn’t put it to my feet.

“That jump is well within my range and I know I can do it really nicely – at the last event I scored 118 points on it so I can do it a lot better than I did it tonight.”

Peel, who was Australia’s flag bearer at the opening ceremony, was happy for Xu, who also won a silver in Sochi in 2014.

The Chinese 31-year-old also bagged a silver medal in the mixed team event last week in Beijing, with Australia unable to enter without two men ranked high enough.

“She’s an incredible athlete who has been at this a long time and at the top of the sport a long time so I really respect her and I’m happy for her,” Peel said.

“I think she’d been eyeing off that Olympic gold for a long time.”

Peel was in danger of not even making it through to the medal round, before clinching her berth with a second-round effort of 100.02.

Scott’s night ended after back-slapping both of her efforts in the first final, with her best score of of 71.23 leaving her in 10th spot with only the top six advancing.

She said it was the first time through the international season that she hadn’t been able to stick either jump.

“It was pretty gut-wrenching – I didn’t reach my fu ll potential,” said Scott, who came back from an ACL injury to compete.

“I had a lot more to give and unfortunately it wasn’t my night.

“I’ve done a lot of good jumping this season and I’m proud to have done the triple to push the sport for women but I’m pretty devastated.”

Earlier, Australian rookie Gabi Ash finished in 14th spot after the second round of qualifying, missing the finals by two spots