Skiing with a Twist — or Five

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The weather was right — no snow and not much wind — and so freestyle aerial skier Ales Valenta of the Czech Republic decided to try a quintuple twist with a triple back-flip. No one had ever attempted–much less landed–a five twist jump in the Olympics. For Valenta it was a maneuver he had completed perfectly only twice in practice. But he was trailing defending Olympic champion Eric Bergoust of the U.S. and three others after the first round of jumps. Valenta needed something spectacular to win. Indeed, the five-twist jump he executed was spectacular. Also decisive. He took the lead. Bergoust went all out on his jump — a difficult one, but no five-twister — and he fell on landing. Valenta won the gold. Bergoust placed last. "You need a little bit of luck. It's part of the sport," said Valenta. And perhaps a bit of madness as well. Said American Joe Pack, who won the silver, "Ales's a bit psycho." In the world of aerials, that's the highest praise.