Cooper bows out after record career
26 November 2010
Australia’s greatest World Cup skier, Jacqui Cooper, has announced her retirement from aerial skiing after nearly two decades at the top of her sport.
Cooper, 37, is the most celebrated aerial skier ever, often overcoming major setbacks to set new benchmarks on her way to a record number of wins.
Her list of credits are impressive, and her longevity in a sport, thought to favour the young, has been extraordinary.
Cooper was the first Australian female skier to win medals at three World Championships, adding a bronze in Inawashiro in 2009 to the bronze she had won two years earlier in Madonna di Campiglio and the gold ten years earlier in Meiringen.
The Mt Buller skier also won the World Cup aerials title five times, more than any other aerial skier, man or woman; only one other freestyler, American moguls champion Donna Weinbrecht, has achieved the extraordinary feat.
Cooper competed in 139 World Cup events during her career that spanned from 1991 to 2010. She finished on the podium on 40 occasions, including 24 victories, seven ahead of the next most prolific winners in the history of the sport, Canadian Marie-Claud Asselin and fellow Australian Kirstie Marshall.
Taking her sport to new heights, Cooper set a number of world records with the triple twisting triple somersaults that became her trademark.
Cooper attended five Olympic Games – Lillehammer in 1994, Nagano in 1998, Salt Lake City in 2002, Torino in 2006 and Vancouver in February this year.
Fortune never favoured her at the Olympics, her best result a fifth in her final appearance in Vancouver when she once again beat the odds to make the final after an injury-riddled preparation.
Cooper went to the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics as the hot favourite to take gold after winning the World Cup title for three consecutive years, but a training accident on the competition hill in the lead-up to her event put her out of the Games with a knee injury.
Her spirit, however, was ever resilient.
It was Cooper’s ability to rebound from adversity leading up to this year’s Vancouver Games that she rates as her career highlight.
“I had a major hip injury just seven months before Vancouver,” Cooper said.
“My hip was so bad that I had to learn to walk again, so to be able to compete in Vancouver was an achievement that I was very proud of.
“People came up to me after I finished in fifth place and said how sorry they felt for me, but I was not disappointed at all. Vancouver was my greatest achievement, although it was not my greatest result.
“While the World Championship titles were special to me, I have never measured my career by medals won. My goal has always been to take aerial skiing into a new world.”
As the first woman to perform a triple twisting, triple summersault, Cooper will retire with her trailblazing mission accomplished.
Australian Olympic Committee President, John Coates, believes the five-time Olympic team member is a great role model for all Australian athletes.
“Jacqui’s ability to get up and go again, often after suffering a serious injury in a very challenging sport, was not only courageous but told you a lot about the person,” Coates said.
“Her determination to succeed put her up there with the very best ever.
“She also led by example in her stance against doping in sport and her willingness to get involved in helping educate young Australians about all that is good about sport.
“Jacqui has made a great contribution on and off the snow over many years.”
Australian Winter Olympic Team Chef de Mission, Ian Chesterman, said Cooper’s impact on all winter sport, not just aerials, was enormous.
“For many years, when winter sports was struggling for recognition, Jacqui was the inspiration to all, setting new standards and keeping the Australian flag flying high on the world stage.
“She will be sorely missed, but she has left behind a huge legacy of excellence in winter sport, one that has become entrenched in our national sporting culture.”