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2010 Winter Olympics: Lacy Schnoor jubilant despite freestyle team's failure to medal

CYPRESS, British Columbia — It did not have the fairy tale ending she imagined, but Lacy Schnoor's Olympic experience has been a dream come true.

"I did my two hardest jumps," said the 24-year-old Draper native, who finished ninth in the women's aerials competition Wednesday at Cypress Mountain. "Those are new for me this year. And that's actually the second competition where I've landed both jumps — that's why I'm just ecstatic."

The Alta High graduate was so focused on landing her jumps in the women's aerials competition Wednesday night, she didn't notice anything other than the hillside in front of her.

"I was just so in the zone, I hardly remember," said Schnoor with a laugh. "I didn't even notice it was foggy. I'm just psyched that I came out and landed two jumps; I couldn't ask for more."

Lydia Lassila won the gold medal with a combined score of 214.74, while China's Nina Li was second, and her teammate Xinxin Guo was third. The Australians have two golds and a silver, which is the best performance for the country in the Winter Games.

"This is something I've dreamed about at home since as far back as I can remember," said Lassila, who has overcome injuries to lead a strong Australian squad and break up what would have been a sweep by China. "I never backed down. I crossed my t's and dotted my i's; I've had my ups and downs, fought through and believed. This is what I worked for my whole life. It's here now."

Schnoor's American teammate Ashley Caldwell, 16, was 10th, and two-time Olympian Emily Cook, who lives in Park City, was 11th.

It was a disappointing end for Cook, who couldn't hold back tears. She broke both her feet just weeks after earning a spot on the 2002 U.S. Olympic Team and then had a disappointing finish in Torino in 2006. Wednesday night, she fell backward on the landing of her first jump, but she nailed the second jump, which made her smile.

"It's just been such a long road to get here," she said choking back emotion. "Obviously, I'm disappointed with my first jump, but it's been a long road, and I'm very proud of the preparation I've done. I've put everything, my heart and soul into it."

For Caldwell, there was no downside, as she's only competed in two World Cups before the Games. She is the first gymnast to come through the Elite Air program.

"It's kind of like a pipeline for the best in the world," she said.

Schnoor's journey to the Olympics has been long and, at times, rough. She began competing aerials at 16, but her interest in the sport was sparked when she was invited to a camp while in junior high. It was part of a program to allow local youngsters to take advantage of the facilities being built in Utah for the 2002 Winter Games.

"I didn't even know what aerial skiing was," she said. But the former gymnast was game to try something new.

As it turned out, she was very good. She was competing with the U.S. Ski Team by 2002, and she was the U.S. national champ by 2005.

Unfortunately, injuries derailed her career more than once, including a knee injury and scapula break.

"It's been a long eight to nine years," she said. "I had a couple injuries, and so I'm just so excited I finally made it here to the Olympics."

She was featured in Sports Illustrated's Swimsuit Edition, and she has had the opportunity to see the world as a member of the U.S. Ski Team. As much as she's enjoyed all that comes with being an Olympian and a world class athlete, in the last two weeks, her focus was always on trying to earn a medal.

"Opening ceremonies was so much fun," she said. "It was incredible to be with all the other athletes. I was definitely trying to be focused for this competition, so I tried to not get too excited."

She and her family did have time to take in the men's 5,000 meter skating competition.

"That was the first time I've ever seen speedskating," she said.

The aerial skiers had a tough schedule with qualifying on Sunday and then competition three days later.

"It was definitely a little hard to qualify and then have three days off and then jump again," she said. "It's definitely hard to put down four jumps — for all of us. It doesn't happen very often. It's incredible see all these athletes come out and stomp their landings."

The world stage did not psych the first-time Olympian out at all.

"I'm definitely excited that I came out here and competed like it was a World Cup," she said. "I wasn't more nervous, so I was psyched with that."

She said she definitely has one more year of World Cup competition left in her, but she's not sure after that. She attends Westminster and will likely try to finish her studies in the near future.

"(I'm studying) business so far; we'll see if it changes," she said with another laugh. "I don't know if I can ever leave the sport; I love it so much."

e-mail: adonaldson@desnews.com