Monday, February 18, 2002
Camplin's aerials win gives Aussies second gold
PARK CITY, Utah -- Guess what, mate? There's a surprising
new powerhouse at the Winter Olympics.
Alisa Camplin delivered Australia's second gold medal in three days ... and second in history.
It's Australia, the sunny land of cricket, rugby and swimming
that had never won a gold medal in the Winter Games before this
year. Suddenly, the Aussies have two in three days.
Freestyle aerialist Alisa Camplin joined speedskater Steven
Bradbury as the latest golden child from Down Under. She won
Monday, giving the Aussies one more gold than the athletes from the
winter wonderland of Austria, and as many as Canada.
"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. Hopefully, there are some people in
Australia that actually see now that winter sports are something
that they can pursue."
Joining Camplin on the podium were a pair of Canadians. Veronica
Brenner took silver and Deidra Dionne won bronze.
The day, however, belonged to the Aussies and their flamboyant
gold medalist, a 27-year-old accounts manager who took a hiatus
from her job at IBM to make the rounds on the skiing tour.
She was only considered the second-best aerialist in her
country, behind gold-medal favorite Jacqui Cooper, who went home
after hurting her knee in training last week.
Camplin's biography offers a glimpse of what many Aussies have
to go through to make the Winter Games.
She's an ex-gymnast. She used to train in a leach-infested lake
near Melbourne, the best facility the Aussies had for their
underfunded sport. She had to sell her car to make ends meet this
Oh, she's also not a very good skier. She didn't learn to ski
until she was 19. In fact, she trampled her victory flowers because
she fell on her trip down the mountain to the winner's news
"Skiing in Australia isn't what it's like in North America,"
she said. "It's a short, action-packed season, and we don't all
get down the mountain as gracefully as they do over here. You see a
lot of football teams out there. It's a little crazy."
Camplin's victory brought out the old cheer -- "Aussie, Aussie,
Aussie! Oi, Oi. Oi!" -- from a strong Aussie contingent more used
to making noise near the swimming pool than on the mountain.
The crowd included Camplin's parents and her sister, Regina, all
of whom she told to stay home for the Olympics because it cost too
much and she didn't want the distractions.
She didn't know they had come to America until the end of her
second jump. Turns out, that was only her second-biggest surprise
of the day.
"As soon as I landed my second jump, I thought, `I feel really
bad because nobody's here,"' she said. "Then I heard my sister
screaming. I said, `Oh, my party friend is here!"'
Camplin could have been the first Aussie to win winter gold,
were it not for Bradbury's stunning victory in the 1,000-meter
speedskating finals Saturday night. But really, she said,
Bradbury's victory made things easier on her.
"When he came through, it almost pleased me that I didn't have
to go out and do this," she said. "I knew that was a big thing my
nation was trying to chase. When Steven did it, I was like, `Good,
I don't have the weight of the nation on my shoulders."'
Camplin landed a pair of triple-twisting, double backflip jumps
-- the most popular trick among the 12 finalists.
Only two women tried triple flips. One was Evelyn Leu of
Switzerland, who set the world record in qualifying, but finished
11th in the finals, landing hard on both her attempts and
somersaulting down the mountain.
"It wasn't as I had imagined," Leu said. "The whole week was
great, except the last day."
As pretty as Camplin's jumping was -- arms and legs moving in
straight lines against the backdrop of a clear, blue sky -- she put
on an even better show after it was over.
She started crying as she left the landing area and said "Oh my
God, Oh my God," hardly able to believe she had done it.
In first place with two skiers left to jump, she let out a huge
sigh of relief when favorite Alla Tsuper of Belarus missed her
On the last jump of the day, first-round leader Russian Olga
Koroleva nailed a clean, but simple jump, and Camplin gave a
knowing nod, feeling she had lost the gold.
But Koroleva's jump wasn't difficult enough, and when her score
was posted, Camplin realized she was the winner. The tears flowed
again, then she was mobbed by coaches and her Canadian friends, who
Brenner's second-place finish was also something of a surprise.
She finished eighth in qualifying.
It was Canada's first official silver medal of these games --
figure skaters Jamie Sale and David Pelletier gave theirs up when
they were belatedly awarded the gold -- and there was no controversy
surrounding this one.
"Coming in second, I have no complaints about that," Brenner
said. "I thought Alisa was the best jumper out there today."