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Cooper out to create history

16 May 2008

Jacqui Cooper is out to become the first woman to make five Australian Olympic teams following her decision to extend a remarkable career to Vancouver 2010.

After weighing up her options since the end of the 2008 season, which saw her claim a fifth World Cup title, the 35-year-old aerial skier has committed to two more years in the sport with the goal of another Olympic campaign. Cooper was a member of the Australian Olympic team for the Winter Games in Lillehammer (1994), Nagano (1998), Salt Lake City (2002) and Torino (2006).

Six other Australian women have gone to four Olympic Games – basketballer Sandra Brondello, diver Jenny Donnett, track and field athlete Lisa Ondieki, skier Zali Steggall and hockey players Rechelle Hawkes and Liane Tooth.

Cooper’s past Olympic experiences have been an ill-fated saga of injury and accident. In 1994 she was an inexperienced jumper, finishing in 16th place.

In Nagano she was one of the favourites after a string of World Cup medals. But she crashed out of the event in the qualifying round, missing the final and recording 23rd position.

She went to the Salt Lake 2002 Olympics as the white hot favourite, but a training accident in the week before the competition put her out of the Games with a shattered knee.

And in Torino she set new record points score to win the qualifying competition, but missed her landing in the opening jump of the final, ending in eighth position.

But it is the love of jumping and a desire to be better that is fuelling her decision, not the need to stand on an Olympic podium.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to announce that I’ve committed myself to the next two years in aerial skiing,” Cooper said.

“It’s been a bit of a process that I’ve had to go through to think about everything, and the more I’ve thought about it, the more I know that I haven’t finished my aerial career.”

“Every single night when I go to bed I lie there and I think about how much more I can do as an athlete, and I haven’t got close to being the best that I can be.”

“I love jumping and I’m not ready to give that love away yet – I’m going to keep doing it until I find something else that I love more than aerials.”

Cooper naturally spent time discussing her options with her fiancée, Mario Volpe.

“Mario is so supportive of my decision. He’s played a big part in my committing to the next two years.

“We both figure that what you can do at 35 you should be able to do at 37, whether that’s going off and doing something else in business or having a family.

“All of those things can wait and Mario knows that jumping makes me happy, and if I’m happy, he’s happy.

“I look forward to competition and I love training and the challenge of the sport. I’m looking forward to the challenge of the World Championships next season, and then the Olympics.

“I’ve been sitting down with the people in the AIS program, with our OWI Sports psychologist and, of course, with Mario, and we’ve got a good plan and good coaching in place.”

The veteran skier will fly out of Australia on Thursday for a six-week training camp in Utah.

Olympic Winter Institute

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