Omischl wins men's aerials

Updated: March 18, 2005, 4:10 PM ET
Associated Press

RUKA, Finland -- Steve Omischl led a Canadian 1-2 finish in men's aerials Friday and Nina Li won the women's event to claim China's first ever gold medal at the World Freestyle Ski Championships.

Earlier, Tomas Kraus of the Czech Republic and Karin Huttary of Austria won their finals to become the first gold medalists in the new ski cross event.

Omischl won the men's aerials with 258.98 points while runner-up Jeff Bean had 253.61, after competing on a snow ramp under the lights just south of the Arctic Circle in northern Finland. It was Canada's first men's aerials gold since 1997, and the sixth in the spectacular event since the inaugural worlds in 1986.

"This is the pinnacle of my career thus far," said Omischl, who won last season's World Cup aerials title but had to settle for second this year. "I had a great season last year, but those were all World Cups. This is the first time I've won a major event and going into next year with the Olympics I can't be happier."

Alexei Grishin of Belarus took the bronze medal with 246.19 points.

Nina topped the women's final with 197.37 points. Evelyne Leu of Switzerland was second with 196.01 points and Xinxin Guo of China took bronze with 183.94 points.

"I felt good all season and wanted to win this badly," said Nina, who dominated the World Cup circuit this season with six wins in 12 events. "A new (Canadian) coach helped me with the small things ... new things that improved my confidence even more."

World Cup champion Jeret Peterson of the United States placed 12th and fellow American Joe Pack was 14th.

In the new ski cross, Kraus won the men's final just ahead of Sweden's Jesper Brugge and Audun Gronvold of Norway. Kraus dominated the World Cup circuit with three wins in six races this winter to win the overall title.

Huttary edged Sweden's Magdalena Iljans in a women's final photo-finish. France's Ophelie David, who beat Huttary for the World Cup overall title, was third.

In ski cross, four skiers go down the course simultaneously. The track's steepness is between 12 and 18 degrees and must be at least 12 meters wide. The course includes banked turns, rollers and moguls. Style is not judged -- speed alone decides.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press