No gold for China in freestyle aerials as Li and Xu crash land
Reuters in Sochi
China once again failed to turn their dominance of women's freestyle skiing aerials into Olympic gold as Li Nina and Xu Mengtao both failed to nail their landings in the final.
Hopes of a second gold medal in the snow were high when Li, silver medallist at the last two Games, and world champion Xu both reached the final four.
Getting both skis down safely on the steep incline of the landing slope after twisting and turning six metres in the air is easier said than done, though, and both were found wanting.
Li's final jump ended in an explosion of snow and skis, while Xu just about kept her backside off the ground but only by trailing her hand on the ground, injuring it in the process.
Xu, whose strong hopes of gold in Vancouver four years ago were also ended by a botched landing on her final jump, had to settle for silver behind Alla Tsuper of Belarus.
"This is the fourth silver medal China has won in aerials at the Olympic Winter Games," said the 23-year-old world champion. "The last jump was less than satisfactory. During the landing I had a misjudgment.
"I didn't quite get used to the slope here because it is steeper than what we have in the U.S. where we train. So I feel really sad, it was a shame."
Li, who injured her leg in her crash, confirmed these Olympics would be her last. "I retired after Vancouver 2010 because of my injuries and age, but I came back," the 31-year-old said. "It's a shame that I didn't win a medal."
China have high hopes of gold in the men's aerials to match the breakthrough title won by Han Xiaopeng at the 2006 Olympics, but for the women it is back to the drawing board. "There were a lot of unpredictable factors in the competition," said coach Ji Dong.