The Olympic Winter Institute of Australia/Victoria Institute of Sport athlete becomes the fourth Australian woman to win an aerial skiing World Championships title and joins Kirstie Marshall, Jacqui Cooper and Alisa Camplin in an elite group.
Peel claimed her first major title in a nail-biting super-final ahead of American Kiley McKinnon in second with China’s Xu Mengtao in third.
Peel’s courageous victory came from a triple twisting double somersault.
As the third last competitor in the six-woman super-final, Peel landed a high quality jump and picked up 88.47 points from the judges.
The jump put Peel at the top of the leaders’ board and at that time she knew she would podium but the colour of her medal depended on the last two jumps of the competition from Flying Kangaroo teammate Danielle Scott and Mengtao.
Unfortunately for Scott, she fell slightly backwards on her landing, which was reflected in her score of 70.14 points, which pushed the Australian out of medal contention and back to fifth place overall.
The higher ranked Mengtao pinned her hopes of snatching the gold from Peel on a triple twisting triple somersault, a more difficult jump than Peel’s selection.
However, Mengtao failed to land the jump cleanly and gained 86.84 points.
A shell-shocked Peel described the win as “disbelief”.
“I just wanted to get through to the top six but to come away with the win is unbelievable,” Peel said.
“I am so happy to be the World Champion. I can’t believe it.”
Going into the Championships, Peel thought she “had a shot of being on the podium” but did not expect to be standing on the top step.
“I was a little nervous about the jump selection but I knew that if I wanted to stand on the podium, I knew that was what I had to do,” Peel said.
One of the first people to congratulate Peel on her outstanding performance was former World Champion Jacqui Cooper, who originally identified Peel’s exception talent as a gymnast and encouraged her to become involved with aerial skiing.
“Jacqui said she was so proud of me, which meant so much to me,” Peel said.
“She has always encouraged me and helped me with so many things.”
She added that training alongside Olympic gold medallist Lydia Lassila for a number of years as well as a year with Cooper, set Peel on a course to becoming World Champion.
“Training with Lydia I saw how tough a competitor she is and my first year, which was Jacqui’s last year, was amazing plus working with my coaches and teammates, has been so great.”
Scott can also be proud of her achievements at this event after securing the highest score in the qualification session, seventh in the first final, second in the second final before making a minor error in the super-final.
The third Flying Kangaroo member, Renee McElduff, finished in 13th place overall.
In other results from Kreischberg, Australian snowboard cross athlete Alex “Chumpy” Pullin finished his qualification session in top place.
The defending champion goes into tomorrow’s finals as one of the top contenders and is aiming on becoming the first snowboard cross athlete to win three World Championship in a row.
Other Australians, Cam Bolton and Jarryd Hughes finished the session in 11th and 29th respectively while Belle Brockhoff was seventh fastest. All OWIA/NSWIS athletes qualified for the finals.
Women’s aerial skiing, FIS Freestyle Ski and Snowboard World Championships, Kreischberg, Austria
1. Larau Peel (AUS), 2.Kiley McKinnon (USA), 3. Xu Mengtao (CHN), 4.Ashley Caldwell (USA), 5. Danielle Scott (AUS), 6. Hanna Huskova (BLR), 13. Renee McElduff (AUS)