DEER VALLEY, USA – It was the best World Cup aerials event since 2005 for the US aerials team, and the best one-day result for the US women since 1989, as three US athletes made the podium at the Deer Valley aerials World Cup on Thursday night in front of a huge hometown crowd.
Mild temperatures and clear skies saw thousands of fans gather at the base of Deer Valley’s White Owl aerials run, and those fans did not leave disappointed, as the home squad claimed first and second in the ladies event and second place in a drama-filled men’s competition.
On the ladies’ side it was Ashley Caldwell (USA) taking the win with the final jump of the competition, as she was rewarded for being the only athlete bold enough to throw triple jumps in both rounds of the final. He last jump – a lay, double-full, full – proved to be just enough to bump her teammate Kiley McKinnon to second place, despite the fact Caldwell had a small bobble in her landing.
While McKinnon’s final back-full, double-full, was executed almost perfectly, the higher degree of difficulty of Caldwell’s jump, combined with a strong execution before the landing, gave her a score of 99.78 to McKinnon’s 95.52.
“I’m super stoked,” said Caldwell following the awards ceremony, “That’s the first time I’ve done that jump in competition and it worked out for me. I wish I could have skied out a bit cleaner, but I’m happy and I’m super excited looking forward to the world championships.”
Third place in the ladies’ competition went to Shen Xiaoxue (CHN), as the 21-year-old was able to score her first-ever podium in just her third World Cup start.
On the men’s side, the host squad was able to place eight athletes through to the 12-man final, all but guaranteeing them a podium of some kind. However, also in that final were strong representatives from China and the Ukraine, and two of those athletes were also able to step up and claim a piece of the Deer Valley glory.
The win on the night went to Qi Guangpu, and if there was any doubt as to who the current king of aerials is, that was erased on Thursday night. Qi jumped nearly perfectly through qualifications and the first round of finals, before dropping in and throwing down as great an aerials jump as one is likely to ever see.
His final double-full, full, double-full jump – a triple flip with five full rotations – was executed nearly perfectly, with the jump’s only real problem coming when Qi began celebrating almost immediately upon landing and nearly caught an edge. His score of 138.50 ended up essentially 10 points better than that of the second place athlete.
That second place athlete was Mac Bohonnon (USA), who threw his second consecutive personal-best jump in the super final to even get within those ten points of Qi. Bohonnon has been gaining confidence and quality with every jump this season, and his final round double-full, full, full was executed exceptionally well, giving him his second consecutive podium and the third of his career.
“I’m feeling kind of on top of the world right now,” said Bohonnon of his podium, “To come out here and jump as well as I did, for myself, that’s awesome. I had two personal bests in one night in front of the hometown crowd and with my whole family and so many friends here. But even better is how well our whole team did.”
Third place for the men went to Oleksandr Abramenko (UKR), who lead the competition coming out of the qualification round. Jumping last on the night, Abramenko threw the same double-full, full, full jump as Bohonnon, and for his efforts received, incredibly, the exact same score as the American – 128.51. However, based on the first criteria for tiebreaking – form scores – Abramenko was forced to settle for third place on the night and the third podium of his career.
Aerials competition continues next week at the Kreischberg 2015 Freestyle Ski and Snowboard world championships, where aerials will be held as the first event of the entire championships. Competition from Deer Valley continues with tomorrow with World Cup moguls competition.
1. Ashley Caldwell, USA
2. Kiley McKinnon, USA
3. Shen Xiaoxue, CHN
1. Guangpu Qi, CHN
2. Mac Bohonnon, USA
3. Oleksandr Abramenko, UKR