Hometown girl places 5th at worlds

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One year after suffering a knee injury that interrupted her career, freeskier Gina Gmeiner placed fifth at the FIS Freestyle World Championships in Ruka, Finland on Thursday.

Gmeiner, who grew up and still lives in Steamboat, was one of two former Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club skiers to break into the top-five of the halfpipe at the World Championship.

Another former Winter Sports Club skier, Kristi Leskinen was the top American woman in the event, placing second to Canadian Sarah Burke.

Leskinen, who lives in Pennsylvania, trained with the Winter Sports Club freestyle program for several years before returning home and turning to freeskiing.

"All I like to do is tricks," Leskinen said in a U.S. Ski Team release. " I did moguls for a while, but my passion is jumping."

Like Gmeiner, the former mogul skier shifted from the bumps to the halfpipe with terrific results.

On Thursday, she used a 540, an Alley Oop, and a 700 to score 39.7 points and finish on the podium. Burke netted 44 points to take first and Norway's Grete Eliasen scored 38.3 to earn the bronze.

Gmeiner scored 28.4 for fifth, and the final American, Vail's Jamie Sundberg, scored 27.5 points to finish sixth.

For Gmeiner, just getting to the World Championships was a journey in itself. In spring 2004, she injured her knee while training in the superpipe at the Steamboat Ski Area.

She spent the last part of the season and the entire summer rehabilitating to compete this season. She got back on skis in December just in time to post two World Cup podiums that led to her invitation to Finland.

But Gmeiner and Leskinen were not the only athletes with ties to Steamboat celebrating Thursday.

Lowell Whiteman graduate Ryan St. Onge qualified to compete in today's aerial finals, along with three other Americans.

The top-12 aerialist in the world will compete tonight under the lights along with American women Jana Lindsey and Emily Cook.

Opening ceremonies for the World Championships kicked off the events in Finland on Tuesday. The skiercross qualification took place Wednesday followed Thursday by halfpipe and the aerial qualifiers.

Today, the finals in skiercross and aerials will take place, followed by moguls Saturday and Sunday.

--To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209 or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

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