Speedy Peterson finds quick way to 3rd Olympics in aerials | VailDaily.com

Speedy Peterson finds quick way to 3rd Olympics in aerials

AP National Writer
Jeret "Speedy " Peterson, left, of Boise, Idaho, and Lacy Schnoor, of Draper, Utah, celebrate on the podium after winning the U.S. Aerials Olympic Trials event in Steamboat Springs, Colo. on Thursday, Dec. 24, 2009. Both Peterson and Schnoor earned the right to compete for the U.S. Ski Team at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia. (AP Photo/Nathan Bilow)
AP | FR37383 AP

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. – A Hurricane in Vancouver? Speedy Peterson says, yes, it might happen.

Peterson, who pumped up the sport of freestyle aerials with the patented quintuple-twisting jump he calls the Hurricane, won Olympic trials Thursday to seal his spot in Vancouver come February.

He’ll be joined by Lacy Schnoor, who took advantage of falls from America’s top two female jumpers – Jana Lindsey and Emily Cook – to earn her first Olympic trip.

The star of the day, though, was Peterson, the renegade who tried the Hurricane with middling results four years ago in Italy. He finished seventh that night, but insisted he was satisfied because doing that jump was the bigger goal than winning an Olympic medal.

“With Torino, maybe I shouldn’t have gone for the Hurricane, maybe I should’ve stepped it down and gone for the podium,” he said. “But that’s not my personality. I’m still going for it and I’m going to give it my best every single day. It’s the only way I know how to do things.”

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He’s making no guarantees about what he’ll do in Vancouver. And at this point in the season, he said the jump Hurricane is simply not ready. So on a frigid day in Steamboat, with an Olympic spot on the line, Peterson did a pair of quadruple-twisting jumps and landed them both to post a winning score of 258.21. That was nearly 27 points better than runner-up Dylan Ferguson.

This is Peterson’s third Olympics. Making the trip, he said, never gets old.

“It’s a lot more pressure than it’s ever been before,” he said. “I know I’m not 21 anymore. I’m 28 and I’m not going to do this until I’m 60. It’s getting down to the wire and I’m doing everything I can to get on that podium.”

Not feeling the same pressure was Ryan St. Onge, one of America’s top jumpers who was ranked second in the world in 2009. St. Onge had a narrow lead over Peterson after the first jump, but tried only three twists on the second, then fell on the landing, and finished in third place.

“I’m really focused on the Olympic Games and peaking at that point in the season,” St. Onge said. “I’m just taking it very slow, working on bringing up the degree of difficulty. I knew on that last jump there was no way for me to win.”

St. Onge, like everyone other than Peterson and Schnoor, can still make the Olympic team with good performances in World Cup events over the next month.

Schnoor, the 24-year-old from Draper, Utah, won thanks in part to a triple-twisting jump that she practiced on snow for the first time the day before the event.

“I still can’t believe it,” Schnoor said. “I thought I had a 50-50 chance. I’m glad I’m going.”

Schnoor edged 16-year-old Ashley Caldwell, who found herself surprisingly in the lead thanks to two solid jumps, combined with the spills by Cook and Lindsey.

Caldwell is a member of the ski team’s Elite Air Program – designed for elite gymnasts, divers and the like who want to use their acrobatic skills on snow. Caldwell found out she had a spot at Olympic trials only a few days before the event.

“I’m shaking right now. It hasn’t really set in yet,” she said. “I was surprised to be that far ahead. Maybe later this season, I’ll make it.”

Of course, the prospect of having someone as raw as Caldwell make the team points out both the beauty and the danger of Olympic trials like this. The beauty is that anyone can make it. The danger is that the team could hand one of its few, precious spots to an unknown who has one good day. (The U.S. coaches say they expect Caldwell to have plenty more days like this.)

“That happens in sport,” said Mike English, the U.S. Olympic Committee’s chief of sport performance. “Miracles do happen. That’s part of the competition and the experience, and if they perform like that and get to winner’s circle, then it means they certainly have the talent.”

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