Few Olympic sports give the competitor so little time, and so little opportunity to make their mark as the freestyle aerials. So much can go wrong in the space of the short descent to the four-metre slope which propels the skiers high into the sky for a gobsmacking series of twists, turns and flips. The event was in its infancy at the 2002 Games at Salt Lake City, but nonetheless a huge crowd was at the Deer Valley resort to see the spectacular action played out.
The American favourite Eric Bergoust led after the opening round, but the gold medal was effectively wrenched from his grasp even before he took his second and final leap. Czech skier Ales Valenta, a seasoned victor of three World Cup titles, was fifth after the opening round and knew he required something special to lift him up the rankings.
What came next had never been seen in Olympic aerials competition before; a successfully executed quintuple twist and triple back-flip which sent the crowd absolutely wild. Valenta had looked pensive at the top of the run, but he exploded off the ramp and pirouetted through the air with impossible speed and precision.
The landing was a little shaky but the degree of difficulty was such that he surged into a lead that he would never relinquish. He lay on his back in disbelief at the bottom of the run, punching the air and pointing to his delirious coaching team.
Bergoust, faced with executing a perfect jump to reclaim the lead, over-committed and ended his jump flat on his back and in last place. Another American, Joe Pack, and Belarus skier Aleksei Grichin took the silver and bronze medals but they were way behind Valenta, who later admitted he had been lucky to nail such a complicated leap at the most pressurised moment of his career.