Jacqui Cooper, Australia’s most successful World Cup skier and a trail-blazer for Australian female aerial skiers, ended an inspirational career when she retired following the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. Born in January 1973, she won the World Cup aerials championship five times, more than any other aerial skier, male or female. She won the world championship in 1999, as well as bronze medals in 2007 and 2009. Overall, she competed in 139 World Cup events between 1991 and 2010; she had 40 podium finishes, with 24 victories - seven ahead of the next most prolific winners, Canada’s Marie Claud Asselin and fellow Australian Kirstie Marshall.
In 2010 Cooper became the first Australian woman to win selection for five Olympic Games. She went to Lillehammer (1994), Nagano (1998), Salt Lake City (2002), Turin (2006) and Vancouver (2010). Sadly, though, her Olympic timing was never quite right, and she had to watch as younger teammates Alisa Camplin (2002) and Lydia Lassila (2010) won gold medals. She attended the 2002 Games as a hot favourite, but wrecked a knee in a training accident just days before her competition. Cooper’s best Olympic result was a fifth in Vancouver, when she beat the odds to reach the final after suffering a major hip injury seven months earlier.
Cooper was a teenage trampolinist before Australian Winter Olympic Institute chief Geoff Lipshut recruited her to his fledgling program in 1989. Her pioneering feats, with those of Marshall, laid the foundation for aerial skiing to become Australia’s most successful winter sport. She set many benchmarks, among them the first performance in competition of the triple twisting triple somersault.