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Freestyle aerials feature twists in plot

USA's Matthew Depeters competes in the men's aerials. (Mike Siegel / Seattle Times / MCT)
USA's Matthew Depeters competes in the men's aerials. (Mike Siegel / Seattle Times / MCT)

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Bring on the Hurricane.

Jeret "Speedy" Peterson is a man with a plan, if conditions for the final of the men's freestyle aerials are anything like they were on Monday at Cypress Mountain.

"I hope to do the Hurricane, I'm planning on it," said Peterson in the mixed zone after the U.S. athlete was fifth in qualifying.

His vaunted Hurricane happens to be an aerial trick featuring three flips and five twists.

But winds of change, so to speak, were in operation in qualifying.

Gone was No. 1-ranked and heavily favored Anton Kushnir of Belarus. Joining Kushnir on the sideline, also failing to make the final, was defending Olympic champion Han Xiaopeng of China.

Kushnir and the defending Olympic champion finished 15th and 21st, respectively.

Up-and-coming aerialist Jia Zongyang of China was the top qualifier with 242.52 points. American Ryan St. Onge was also the model of consistency with two stellar jumps, qualifying second, in 240.67.

His smile after the second jump said it all. St. Onge, winner of the world championships last year in Japan, leaned over the barrier in the finish area and celebrated, arms outstretched.

Outstretched enough to grab a coveted spot in the final, which will be here on Thursday night.

St. Onge, who is from Hartford, Conn, but lives in Winter Park, Colo., was 16th at the Olympics four years ago.

"I don't worry about my scores too much," St. Onge said. "I have had a lot of trouble landing this year. To come out today and land two jumps the way I wanted to is unbelievable."

Two other Americans did not make the final 12. Matt DePeters was 17th and Scotty Bahrke was 23rd.

There were two jumps in qualifying. In scoring, air and form accounts for 70 percent and the landing makes up the other 30 percent.

The theme on Monday? Land or go home.

And it was a bad landing that did in Kushnir.

He was widely considered the pre-Olympic favorite because of his dominating results on the World Cup circuit as he won four events. His jumping was a thing of perfection.

Until Monday.

Kushnir led after the first jump but botched his second as his right leg went out on his landing and he lost one ski. The judges reacted accordingly, giving him 88.01 points.

Qualification scores do not carry over to the final.

Said Steve Omischl, who was one of three Canadians to make the final: "There are some studs jumping for sure. Today, the name of the game is to land your two jumps and for the finals, it's time to step it up."

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