WEST VANCOUVER, British Columbia –; At 16, Ashley Caldwell might be too young to know any better.

At 37, Jacqui Cooper might be too old to worry anymore.

The American kid who’s barely starting and the Australian veteran who wrote the book each advanced to the finals of Olympic women’s aerials Saturday, a head-over-heels adventure where the next concussion, shattered foot or torn-up knee is always lurking around some corner.

Cooper finished 11th, and Caldwell got the 12th and final spot on a day when Americans Emily Cook and Lacy Schnoor also advanced, marking the first time the United States has put a woman in the Olympic finals since 1998.

Defending Olympic champion Evelyn Leu of Switzerland, who hit her head hard on the ground in training earlier in the week, fell on her second jump and failed to move on. Alla Tsuper of Belarus finished first and Li Nina of China, the 2006 silver medalist, finished second.

None, of course, has the resume of Cooper, who in 2007 won her unprecedented fourth World Cup title, a tribute to her longevity and willingness to take ever-increasing risks in a sport that demands it.

”I am so passionate and so in love with what I do,” Cooper said. ”It’s being able to be the best at something. I’m the best that’s ever lived in my sport, and that’s enough to keep me going.”

Her Olympic resume, though, is still missing something. She has qualified for her fifth games but has yet to win a medal.

A crash during qualifying in 1998 left her with leg and head injuries, unable to compete. In 2002, she was a favorite, but shattered her knee a few weeks before the games and was also on the sideline. Finally healthy to compete in 2006, she scored a world-record 213.56 points in her two qualifying jumps but crashed twice in the finals.

On Saturday, she went with a pair of conservative jumps, kept her skis in perfect unison and landed them both cleanly, good enough to take the second-to-last spot for Wednesday’s finals.

Caldwell is so new to the upper echelons of this sport, she hadn’t even competed in a World Cup event until January.

A member of America’s developmental Elite Air Program, Caldwell started showing Olympic promise late last year, then made the U.S. team.

The landing on her first jump was sideways with split skis, and she needed a huge effort simply to stay up. She thought that would wipe her out of the final, but when several other women fell, Caldwell stayed in the top 12.

She will be a long shot in the final, but Cook, a 30-year-old from Park City, Utah, a Carrabassett Valley Academy graduate, will have a legitimate shot at the podium.


CURLING: The U.S. men’s team got its second straight victory, beating Sweden 8-7 thanks to the exceptional shot-making of Jason Smith.

A loss would all but have eliminated the Americans from medal contention.

Skip John Shuster returned to the lineup after being benched for the team’s win over France on Friday following an 0-4 start.


MEN’S SUPER-COMBINED: Didier Defago of Switzerland led downhill training for today’s super-combined race.

Defago, who won gold in the downhill to open the Alpine competition, clocked 1 minute, 36.31 seconds down the Dave Murray run.

Another Swiss skier, Silvan Zurbriggen, was second, only 0.04 seconds behind, and Ivica Kostelic of Croatia was third, 0.15 back.

Defending combined winner Ted Ligety placed 16th, 1.24 seconds behind, and American teammate Bode Miller sat out, as did super-G winner Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway.

Miller, Svindal and Kostelic are among the favorites for the race.

Will Brandenburg of Spokane, Wash., crashed into the safety nets but was uninjured and will still race, the U.S. team said.


SKI JUMPING: Switzerland’s Simon Ammann won the large hill competition to become the first ski jumper with four individual Olympic titles.

Ammann had the best jump in both rounds.

Polish veteran Adam Malysz took silver, and 20-year-old Austrian Gregor Schlierenzauer earned bronze, the same finish as in the normal hill jump a week ago.


SPEEDSKATING: Catherine Raney-Norman of the U.S. was added to today’s 1,500 after another skater withdrew. The decision was based on her spot in the World Cup rankings

Raney-Norman will join Jennifer Rodriguez, Heather Richardson and Jilleanne Rookard.

Raney-Norman finished 17th in the 3,000 and anticipated her only other event would be the team pursuit.


LUGER’S DEATH: Thousands of mourners flocked to the yard of Nodar Kumaritashvili’s family for a traditional funeral in Bakuriani, Georgia.

The 21-year-old luger died in a crash hours before the opening ceremony.


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