Laura Peel came close to claiming Australia’s fourth medal of the Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang before finishing in fifth place in the women’s aerials final.
Peel was the third-ranked qualifier for the super final following two clean jumps but she was unable to nail her landing with her third attempt of the evening, a back double full-full.
She scored 55.34 after crashing the landing to earn a top-five finish, with Hanna Huskova winning gold for Belarus with a score of 96.14.
Huskova’s gold medal landing was far from assured. She stumbled in the blustery conditions and had to put a hand down in the snow to keep her balance – a movement that cost her valuable points.
China’s Zhang Xin, who won the silver medal, was the only skier to perform a clean landing as wind gusts added to the difficulty of the final round of jumps.
Peel’s Australian teammate Danielle Scott did not progress past the opening round of jumps after she missed the landing with her only attempt of the evening.
Scott was attempting a back full-full but crashed when she landed to earn the lowest score of the first round with 57.01.
Australia had managed podium finishes in the women’s aerials at the past four Games, courtesy of Alisa Camplin (gold in 2002, bronze in 2006) and Lydia Lassila (gold in 2010, bronze in 2014), who crashed in the qualifying stage in Pyeongchang on Thursday.
Of the two Australians in the final, Scott, the 2017 world championships silver medallist, had been favoured to finish higher, but it was Peel who rose to the occasion, although she only narrowly survived the opening round.
Peel, the 2015 world champion, performed a back full-full for a score of 85.05, which was good enough for the ninth and final position in the second round.
The 28-year-old was the first to jump in the second round and she produced a score of 85.65 with a well-executed back full-double full.
Madison Olsen of the US and defending champion Alla Tsuper of Belarus could only muster scores of 47.23 and 59.94 respectively, however Huskova — jumping one spot ahead of Peel — nailed the gold medal jump with her double-twisting back layout.
Peel botched the landing with her third jump, although it was still enough to see her finish inside the top five.
Huskova narrowly edged China’s Zhang Xin (95.52), whose teammate Kong Fanyu (70.14) took bronze. Huskova and Zhang were the only two women in the finals to land all three of their jumps cleanly.
Tsuper was fourth in her sixth Olympic appearance.
The women’s aerials is the second competition at the Snow Park to have wind issues. The women’s snowboard slopestyle final was a mess on Sunday, when only nine of the 50 runs were completed without any significant errors.