Lassila, Kushnir win second straight
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- On a night when Anton Kushnir and Lydia Lassila again soared to the top of the podium in World Cup aerials, the Canadian men made a statement of their own in the final event before the Winter Olympics.
Kushnir withstood the best jump of Friday night's competition at the Intervale Jumping Complex by Canada's Warren Shouldice, finishing with a two-jump total of 253.10 points to beat Shouldice by 1.55 points.
"This feels good before the Olympics, but Olympics is different competition," Kushnir said after his third win in five events. "You can not be on a podium and [then] do really good [there]."
Shouldice finished in front of teammates Ryan Blais (250.80) and Kyle Nissen (249.59). Olivier Rochon was sixth and Steve Omischl ninth to complete an impressive showing by Canada.
"We haven't made a podium all year. It's kind of unheard of for us," Shouldice said. "That was nice, just to prove to ourselves that we're capable of it. It feels great.
"He has been winning everything," Shouldice said. "One thing that he'll probably learn down the road is that, as hot as he is right now, wins are tough to come by [in the Olympics]."
Anything seems tough to come by right now for American Ryan St. Onge. The 26-year-old swept the U.S. Championships and World Championships in 2009, marking a steep ascent from a pack finisher to a medal favorite heading into 2010. But his struggles this year continued Friday night with a 23rd.
"I don't take anything for granted, but if I do make the Olympic team I couldn't be more confident in my abilities right now," said St. Onge, who remains a good bet to make the U.S. team, even though he doesn't have a top 10. "I trained so good last week. I trained so good this week. I've done some of the nicest jumps of my life -- in training, unfortunately, not in contests.
"Those nice jumps are coming easier than they ever have before," St. Onge said. "If I can get just a couple of things tuned in and work out the small details, then those nice jumps will come in contests just as easy as they do in training."
St. Onge was the first to go in qualifying, and he failed to stick his landing, falling backward and quickly out of contention.
"It's mostly disappointing to me because it's the same mistake I made two weeks in a row, and I try not to make the same mistake twice," he said. "Now that it's ingrained in my head, I should have it taken care of."
Jeret "Speedy" Peterson of the United States finished 10th, failing again to land his famous five-twist, three-flip Hurricane jump under a moonlit Adirondack sky.
"I missed my landing a little bit," said Peterson, who already has clinched a spot on the U.S. team. "I didn't think it was that bad of a job. I'm 99.9 percent of where I want to be. I just have a couple of things that I need to work on to get it to where I want."
Scotty Bahrke and Matthew Depeters, vying for a slot on the U.S. team, were separated by one spot in the World Cup standings entering the competition. Bahrke, whose older sister, Shannon, made the U.S. women's moguls team with a second-place finish in Thursday's race at nearby Whiteface Mountain, finished 27th on Friday night, six places ahead of Depeters.
In the women's competition, Jana Lindsey of the United States was eighth and teammate Lacy Schnoor finished 10th. Ashley Caldwell and Jaime Myers, also contending for a spot on the U.S. team, were 13th and 17th, respectively, while Emily Cook did not compete for the second straight event because of a sore heel.
Schnoor fell when trying to land her second jump after scoring a career-best 92.70 points in qualifying.
"I didn't get that landing, but I'm really psyched how I'm jumping right now," she said. "Hope I can fine-tune it by the time I get to the Olympics."
Lassila, who won last week at Deer Valley, had a two-jump total of 203.38 to beat Li Nina (197.56) and Zhang Xin (181.72) of China. She left the podium smiling and seemingly unfazed by the Chinese juggernaut.
"I got a bit tired today, so I decided to go with a more basic triple," Lassila said. "They're all good leading into the Games, and to do them in contests is great preparation. It keeps me safe and healthy. When I need to pull back, I can still win. I'm pretty excited.
"The jumps that I do are good enough to win. I have another jump up my sleeve and another if I need to. I've got a lot of room to play here."
Guo Xinxin of China, the aerials leader entering the event, and teammate Xu Mengtao, who was second, finished 15th and 22nd.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press
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