Bergoust skies to 2nd title

Moguls star Weinbrecht retires after finishing 6th



January 24, 2002|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,SUN STAFF

With snow swirling around him and the World Cup aerials title in freestyle skiing on the line, Eric Bergoust had a choice: do a safe jump perfectly or a risky one with less-than-perfect results.

Bergoust, the 1998 gold medalist, heard his closest competitor's high score and chose the latter.

The gamble paid off, as the athlete from Missoula, Mont., won his second consecutive title Sunday in the Gateway Freestyle Classic in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Bergoust edged the Czech Republic's Ales Valenta by less than one point. Alexei Grichin of Belarus finished third.

Skiers faced gusting winds, snow and flat light that made gauging the landing area difficult. Bergoust had another obstacle. Days before the competition, he fell and severely bruised a hip, an injury that was the talk of the Olympic Training Center and almost caused Bergoust to drop out of competition to save himself for the Olympics.

But a day of rehabilitation and a heart-to-heart talk with himself put Bergoust back in competition.

"I need to train in all conditions," he said. "I'm not happy with how I'm jumping yet. I haven't put together two jumps I'm happy with in competition."

Bergoust said repeating his 1998 Olympic finish will be difficult. "There are a lot of guys who can beat me ... six or eight of us who can win," he said. "In Nagano, I felt if I jumped pretty good - not perfect, just pretty good - I could win."

Alla Tsuper of Belarus took first place among women, China's Nanan Xu was second and Canada's Veronica Brenner was third.

In World Cup women's moguls competition at nearby Whiteface Mountain, American Donna Weinbrecht, 36, who won the first Olympic gold medal in the sport in 1992, retired after finishing a disappointing sixth.

The crowd favorite looked good early in the competition but faded badly on her final run. Kari Traa of Norway won, with Americans Hannah Hardaway second and Jillian Vogtli third.

American Jeremy Bloom, 19, already the world's top moguls skier, won the men's competition, followed by teammate Travis Mayer; Canada's Jean-Luc Brassard was third.

Help yourself

For her to become an Olympian, Lea Ann Parsley knew the U.S. women's skeleton team had to improve its world standing from fourth to third to warrant a second competitor in Salt Lake City. That meant beating the third-place Swiss on their home track in the World Cup finale.

Instead of waiting for someone to help her, the nurse and firefighter from Granville, Ohio, took the silver medal, missing the gold by .01 of a second. Canada's Michelle Kelly won, with teammate Lindsay Alcock third.

Parsley joins Tricia Stumpf on the American team.

The U.S. men's team retained its first-place world ranking, with Switzerland and Canada following. Chris Soule ended the season with a gold medal and a No. 2 ranking; Jim Shea Jr. and Lincoln DeWitt earned fifth- and eighth-place rankings, respectively.

Sliding for seed

The U.S. luge team will be competing for position at this weekend's final World Cup event in Winterberg, Germany. Sliders' Olympics seeding will be based on finishes in the last three World Cup races.

During a teleconference Tuesday, team members said they've avoided serious injuries this season, which began in October, and even dodged the kinds of backaches that go with the territory.

"You're never nick-free, but we're pretty healthy," said Brian Martin, who with doubles partner Mark Grimmette took the bronze medal last weekend in World Cup competition in Sigulda, Latvia.

The pair, winners of the bronze in the 1998 Olympics, said the win was a great confidence booster.

"We were struggling a little," said Grimmette, who also competed in the 1994 games. "Now, we know what we can do. We know we have the speed."

Plenty of good seats left

The 2002 Olympics are projected to contribute about $2.1 billion to Utah's economy, and a big chunk will come from ticket sales, which already have exceeded $173 million, more than double the record spent four years ago in Nagano, Japan.

But not everyone is cashing in. Many of the 1.6 million tickets bought two years ago went to independent buyers looking to resell them for profit as the games neared, which is legal in Utah. The Los Angeles Times reported brokers are scrambling to unload inventories, even offering opening-ceremony tickets ($885 face value) $150 to $200 below cost.

"There are so many tickets available, it's cutthroat," ticket broker Steve Sadiq told the Times. "I'm getting calls from lots of sellers, but there aren't enough buyers. These sellers originally thought they'd make a killing, but it's the other way around."

Most organizers are pointing to the events of last Sept. 11 as the cause, citing the public's decision not to travel great distances to get to the games. Ticket sales for individual Olympic events averaged about $150,000 a day before Sept. 11, said Mitt Romney, president of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee. Immediately after the attacks, they dropped to $10,000 a day but have grown steadily since - to $100,000 a day in December, $200,000 a day in January and, last week, $300,000 a day.

All in the family

Brenda Petzold, 28, a Massachusetts native who lives in Park City, Utah, made the U.S. women's freestyle aerials team by finishing seventh in Sunday's World Cup. Her sister Sharon was third in ballet skiing when it was an exhibition event in the 1992 Olympics.

Sun staff writer Kevin Van Valkenburg contributed to this article, which also was compiled from interviews, wire services and reports in other newspapers.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.