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Omischl wins men's aerials

3/18/2005

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.