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Monday, February 11, 2002
Cooper out of Games with knee injury

Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY -- Aerials gold medal favorite Jacqui Cooper of Australia is out of the Winter Olympics after severely damaging her left knee in training Monday, team officials said.

Cooper snapped her ligament and damaged her knee joint after missing a jump and "back slapping" into the hill at the Deer Valley Ski Resort ahead of qualifying for Tuesday's freestyle skiing final.

It is the second Olympics running where Cooper, 29, has missed out through last-minute injury and means Australia's best chance of a first-ever gold at the Winter Games has gone.

"She's devastated," team chief Ian Chesterman told a news conference. "To come this far and to miss out in this way is a tragedy for her.

"She wanted you to know that she might have a broken knee and a broken heart, but her spirit is not broken." Cooper, three times World Cup aerials champion, landed awkwardly after doing a double twisting triple somersault and felt something go in her left knee "like a little explosion", said team doctor Peter Braun.

"It was evident that she had sustained a complete rupture of the ACL (ligament).

"X-rays and MRI (scan) have revealed associated severe damage to her knee joint .. and there is also a small fracture of the tibia," he said.

Cooper is the first woman to have completed a full-full-full (three flips with three twists) and the degree of difficulty of her jumps made her favorite for the gold.

Cooper was also favorite at the 1998 Games in Nagano but crashed in the qualification round, suffering a concussion and injuring her right leg. She finished 16th in the 1994 Games.

"The Olympics so far haven't worked out too well for me. Nagano was bad but this is a whole lot worse," Cooper said in a statement. "This is a nightmare for sure."

In 2001 Cooper suffered a fractured vertebrae and took an herbalist's advice by drinking cockroach extract mixed with diet Coke to help her recover.

"She had worked enormously hard over the past four years to earn the rightful tag as gold medal favorite. For her dream to end this way, so close to her competition, is the cruelest outcome," said Chesterman. Ironically, Cooper was the first on the circuit to wear knee braces as a precaution.