Following Canadian Women to
Salt Lake City

February 18, 2002

Canadians win silver and bronze in aerials
Medals end freestyle skiing 8-year Olympic drought

CBC SPORTS ONLINE - Canadians Veronica Brenner and Deidra Dionne jumped to silver and bronze in the women's aerials competition at Deer Valley on Monday afternoon.

Australia's Alisa Camplin was queen of the hill, though, posting a combined score of 193.47 -- just 3.45 points ahead of Brenner, while Dionne had a two-jump total of 189.26.

Camplin's performance pulls Australia into a tie with Canada in the gold-medal race. Earlier in the week, Steven Bradbury won the Aussies' first-ever Winter Olympic gold in short-track speed skating.

"That's awesome," Camplin said. "We're a summer country, a sunny country. But this is amazing. It will set a great standard for Australian Olympians."

Camplin's victory also put a golden-lining on the absence of her teammate, three-time World Cup champion Jacqui Cooper, who blew her knee out while practicing last week.

Brenner and Dionne were actually in first and second place, respectively, with only three competitors to go when Camplin nailed the jump that gave her gold.

"It went so slowly. It was like time had stopped, everything in slow motion, but it was definitely worth the wait," explained a rather giddy Brenner, when asked how she felt about having to wait while the three remaining jumpers took their turns at trying to surpass her mark.

The door was opened for the two Canadians to land on podium when Belarus' Alla Tsuper, the World Cup leader this season, failed to stick her landing, which dropped her to ninth place.

Then Russian Olga Koroleva, who led the all aerialists with her first jump, had a solid second jump, but played it a little safe; once the modest degree of difficulty for the jump was factored in, it was not enough to dislodge Camplin and the Canadians from their medal positions.

After the Russian's score was posted, Brenner and Dionne embraced, while Camplin shrieked in a mixture of joy and disbelief.

Camplin was not regarded as a favourite in Salt Lake. She was fifth in the World Cup standings last season, but until Monday, she'd finished no higher than seventh in a major competition.

"It's incredible to stand on the podium with one of my teammates," said Brenner, who finished ninth at the 1998 Nagano Games. "As well as Alisa, who's a friend of mine."

The silver medal caps what is a remarkable comeback for Brenner, who suffered a serious knee injury in November 2000 -- an injury she followed up with a separated shoulder suffered while getting back into training.

"This time last year, I was still learning how to walk without a limp," she said.

"I was having such a hard time and I was losing a lot of confidence. There's always a doubt that you just don't have it."

Brenner felt her fortunes were turning, though, when she had an excellent day in practice last week.

"I stuck every jump that I did and my takeoff was just what I wanted."

"Today is the greatest day of my life," Brenner said. "Everything that I went through is so worth it."

Dionne also had some misfortune to bounce back from, having had her skiing equipment stolen at Whistler, B.C. two weeks ago, although she played down its impact on her state of mind.

"I'm lucky enough that it happened a week before the Games so I had enough time to get my focus back," she said.

Brenner's and Dionne's performances gave Canada its first two-medal result in an Olympic event since Jeremy Wotherspoon won silver and Kevin Crockett won bronze in the men's 500-metre speed skating event at Nagano.

It was also a remarkable performance for a team that was completely shut out of the freestyle skiing medals four years ago in Nagano. The medals were also the first ever earned by Canadian women in Olympic freestyle competition.

"It is amazing to our team," said Dionne. "Our team is one of the dominant ones and Nagano didn't go as planned. To come back here to pick up some redemption, and to pick up some medals, shows that our program is still strong."

Brenner and Dionne, from Red Deer Alberta, were fourth and fifth heading their final jump. Dionne nailed her full, double full jump for 100.28 points the highest score in Deer Valley today.

"I knew I had it. I just told my coach (Nick Bass) 'This is it. This is the one.' I just went for it and I knew I could land it and do it well. I just needed to put it to my two feet and I did that today," said the overjoyed Dionne.

World champion Veronika Bauer of Toronto struggled with the landing on her second jump and finished 10th overall. Bauer caught an edge while coasting down the inrun and never fully recovered her momentum.

But Bauer's disappointment could not have been as great as Switzerland's Evelyne Leu, who stunned her opponents with a world-record score in qualifying, but finished well back in 11th in the final.

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