January 15, 2015

KREISCHBERG, Austria (AP) Qi Guangpu of China successfully defended his aerials title, while Laura Peel of Australia won the women's event on the opening day Thursday of the freestyle skiing world championships.

Qi landed solidly from his final jump, which included a triple back flip and five full twists, to gain 139.50 points. Alex Bowen of the United States, who has yet to earn a podium on the World Cup circuit, won silver with 121.27 points, and Maxim Gustik of Belarus ended on 119.91 to take bronze.

Qi also won the title at the 2013 worlds in Voss, Norway, and placed fourth at the Sochi Olympics the following year.

In the women's race, Peel earned 88.47 points to edge Kiley Mckinnon of the United States for the gold medal by 0.35 points and become the first Australian winner since Alisa Camplin 12 years ago. Defending champion Xu Mengtao of China won bronze with 86.84.

Mckinnon's silver was the first American women's aerials medal since Nikki Stone's bronze 16 years ago.

Xu, the Olympic silver medalist, led the competition until landing on her back after the final jump.

''I just can't believe it,'' said Peel, who earned her sole World Cup win at the same venue in Austria three years ago. ''(Xu) is an incredible jumper and her landing is usually bang on. I am just so happy to be on top of the podium.''

Xu Sicun of China crashed after landing from her second jump and was carried off on a sled. There was no immediate update on her condition.

The freestyle skiing and snowboard world champs are being held simultaneously at the same venue for the first time. The next medal event is the snowboard cross on Friday.

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