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Cheryazova jumps for aerials gold

In 1994, Uzbekistan's Lina Cheryazova was the huge favourite to win the women's aerials.

As a youngster she had competed in both gymnastics and trampolining before turning her attention to the snow when she was 18. She competed on the world cup circuit just after turning 21 and soon became a sporting star.

By 1994, she was the defending world champion and had won five successive world cup events. She had taken gold at the 1993 world championship, and her trajectory seemed to be taking her in only one direction – Olympic gold.

There was one problem: her luck seemed to fail her as soon as she arrived in Lillehammer. First, she had a bad fall in training and was subsequently knocked out. She then struggled to find her best form in the qualifying round and struggled to deliver the kind of performance she had regularly displayed on the circuit.

She wasn’t alone. Many of the favourites were struggling. With only the top 12 moving through to the final, both Colette Brand and Nikki Stone were eliminated while Cheryazova scraped through in the final qualifying position.

The question was whether she could now live up to her reputation, and the expectation of the watching world. And she did – landing a twisting triple-flip in the first round to take a huge lead of more than 11 points over Sweden’s Marie Lindgren.

Her second jump was not as impressive, marred by a wobbly landing, and she was left to wait anxiously for the scores. Lindgren scored 84.10pts, while Cheryazova was awarded just 73.92pts. It closed the gap, but left the Uzbek star ahead by just under one point.

It was Uzbekistan’s first Olympic medal, but Cheryazova’s luck was to turn against her. Five months later she suffered a serious head injury in training and spent a week in a coma. Remarkably she returned to competition and finished 13th in the 1998 Olympics.
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