FILE UNDER -- Freestyle

TORINO: Freestyle: Knee injury KO's Ierodiaconou in qualifying

TORINO: Freestyle: Knee injury KO’s Ierodiaconou in qualifying{mosimage}SAUZE D’OULX, Italy – Lydia Ierodiaconou’s left knee buckled as her skis smacked down on the snow, and she started screaming while her fellow Torino Games competitors cringed, many of them relating to her pain all too well.

Her Australian aerials teammate, Jacqui Cooper, had missed the 2002 Games because of a knee injury.

Only moments before, Cooper had been celebrating a record score that would top the charts of the women’s aerials qualifying Tuesday. Then Ierodiaconou landed.

”Oh my God!” Cooper shouted as she knelt down, put her hands over her and rested her forehead on her thigh so she wouldn’t have to see the replay on the jumbo-sized video screen or hear the public address announcer discuss it.

It was a quintessential tough-luck moment in the often brutal sport of aerials ski jumping, where the landings are always hard and the injuries hard to avoid.

No one knew that better than Ierodiaconou, who was just coming back from reconstructive surgery on the same knee, which she had injured in June. Now she’s back to square one, looking at total knee reconstruction, likely with a patella tendon graft, said Australian team doctor Peter Braun.

”She was doing everything right, and then to have something like that happen seems cruel. There’s no other word for it,” said fellow Aussie aerialist Elizabeth Gardner. ”She was in great condition. She was really strong …”

”But the impact of the landing – if you land a little bit crooked – anything can happen. Even if you have a perfect knee you can blow it on landing.”

After recovering from the June injury, which doctors had treated with an Achilles tendon graft in hopes of speeding rehab, Ierodiaconou won at Deer Valley, the only World Cup event she entered before the Olympics.

She also nailed her first qualifying jump – a double back flip with three twists – which placed her third going into the second qualifying jump. With 12 people advancing to the final, she was a sure bet to advance had she landed cleanly on her second jump.
Ierodiaconou knew right away what she had done.

”One of the first comments she made in the ambulance was, ‘Well, here we go again,’ ” Braun said. ”I think she knew before I did.”

Braun said the injury would not prevent her from getting back into shape for the 2010 Games in Vancouver if she chose.

Ierodiaconou did not need to be immediately hospitalized and was taken back to the team hotel, where her parents visited with her. She was not available for comment.

– The Associated Press

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