She's a daredevil by nature, catapulting herself 50 feet into the air and hoping for the best on the snowy, steep, and always fickle landing hill in Sauze d'Oulx. So, Evelyne Leu figured, she would take one more chance.
The Swiss star did just that, throwing a trick she rarely tries. She stuck the landing, too. That's how she became an Olympic gold medalist yesterday, the latest champion in the all-or-nothing sport of women's aerials.
''My coach kept pushing me to do it. He said, 'You can do it, you should do it,' " Leu said. ''I was fifth after the first jump, so I figured I'd try it and go for a medal. This time, it worked out pretty well."
Leu's decision to try a triple somersault with three twists -- the hardest jump on the program -- may have accounted for the 5.16 points that separated her from silver medalist Li Nina of China.
Struggling with lingering back injuries, Li watered down her second jump. She landed it, but without the difficulty rating that Leu received, it wasn't enough to give China its first freestyle gold.
''That jump is very hard for me to do anyway," Li said through a translator. ''With the pain I had in my back, I just didn't think I could do it."
Finishing third was Australian Alisa Camplin, the defending Olympic champion.
Camplin is only four months removed from surgery to replace her shredded knee ligament with one from a cadaver.
''When I woke up this morning, I thought about how lucky I was -- not just to be skiing, but to be able to walk around," she said.
No Americans were in the 12-woman finals, the result of poor qualifying efforts the night before by Emily Cook of Belmont, Mass., and Jana Lindsey.
The South Korean team of Byun Chun Sa, Choi Eun Kyung, Jeon Da Hye, and Jin Sun Yu won the women's 3,000-meter relay final, giving their country its fourth short-track gold medal of the Games.
The South Koreans also won four short-track golds in 1994 at Lillehammer. They'll get a chance to break that mark Saturday night, when the competition finishes with two men's finals and one on the women's side.
Canada took silver in the relay, while Italy picked up the bronze when China -- which crossed the line third -- was disqualified for interfering with another skater in a turn after the last exchange.
With China disqualified, the US took fourth place by winning the consolation final. The team of Allison Baver, Kimberly Derrick, Kim Hyo Jung, and Caroline Hallisey of Natick, Mass., finished ahead of France, Germany, and Japan.
America's most famous short-track skater, Apolo Anton Ohno, safely advanced from his heat in the 500 meters. He's also part of the 5,000-meter relay team, which already qualified for the final.
In the women's 1,000 meters, both US skaters, Hyo Jung and Derrick, safely advanced from their heats.
Outgoing Canadian Chandra Crawford upstaged two of her better-known teammates and pulled off an upset in the women's 1.1-kilometer sprint in Pragelato, earning her country's first cross-country gold medal of the Games.
Crawford finished in 2 minutes 12.3 seconds, seven-10ths of a second ahead of silver medalist Claudia Kuenzel of Germany. Russia's Alena Sidko took the bronze, while Canada's Beckie Scott was fourth in the four-skier final.
American Kikkan Randall reached the semifinals with two great races in the qualifying round and quarterfinals, finishing ninth overall for the best Olympic result by a US woman in cross-country.
Sweden's Bjoern Lind easily skied to a gold medal in the men's 1.3-kilometer sprint after rival Tor Arne Hetland's fall in the semifinals. Lind finished in 2:26.5 to beat silver medalist Roddy Darragon of France, who was six-10ths of a second back. Thobias Fredriksson, also from Sweden, took the bronze.
American Andy Newell came in second in the 80-man field in morning qualifying and teammate Chris Cook also advanced, but neither moved past the quarterfinals.
The best Pete Fenson can hope for now is to leave Italy with a bronze medal and some new pizza recipes.
The Minnesota pizzeria owner and team captain couldn't lead the Americans to the gold medal game, losing to Canada, 11-5, in the men's semifinals in Pinerolo. Canada will play Finland (4-3 over Britain) for the gold; the US will play Britain for a bronze, which would be America's first Olympic curling medal.
''A medal of any color is good," said Fenson. ''That definitely would help us get over [this loss]. I'm sure a victory [tomorrow] would make us feel a little bit better."
The Canadians finished off the US with a whopping 5 points in the ninth end -- one short of the Olympic record. The US quickly conceded the match.
On the women's side, Sweden took a 5-4 win over Norway and will meet Switzerland, which defeated Canada, 7-5, in the other semifinal, for the gold medal today.