Ferguson caps off tribute to Speedy with silver medal
February 8, 2012
Dylan Ferguson kicked off his skis, sprinted around in circles and pointed skyward. The 23-year-old Park City resident and U.S. freestyle aerialist had just earned — at long last — his first World Cup podium on his home base of Deer Valley Resort Friday night.
After 29 career World Cup starts, Ferguson was wearing silver in front of family and friends on the same hill he grew up competing on, on the same hill he practiced with and learned from aerials pioneer Jeret "Speedy" Peterson, who died in July 2011.
"He meant a lot to me and the rest of my team," Ferguson said. "I think that his passion lives on through this sport, through every one of us aerialists out there. It’s so cool to see everybody having a good time, and that’s what Speedy would want."
Ferguson had the best night of his competitive career Friday night. After advancing to the final round, the lanky Ferguson completed a double-full-full-full, resulting in a resounding 126.70 score. Once he advanced to the Super Finals as the No. 1 seed, his full-full-full earned him a silver medal with a final score of 118.86. China’s Jia Zongyang won gold with 128.96 on his final jump.
For Ferguson, second place never felt so good.
"I was feeling good all week jumping here," he said. "This is my home court.
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"I’ve been doing all right this year, been in the top 10 a couple of times. My coach said, ‘This is the one. This is your spot.’ I earned it, I think."
Peterson, who was known for his magnetic personality and his innovations on the hill, made his Olympic debut in the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Utah. He constantly pushed the envelope when it came to creating the next big trick. He was known for his signature "Hurricane"– a five-flip, three-twist phenomenon — that eventually helped him earn a silver medal at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada.
Last Wednesday, Deer Valley Resort and the United States Ski & Snowboard Association honored Peterson by naming the tow lift that shuttles the athletes to the top of the jumps "The Hurricane."
Todd Schirman, freestyle program director for USSA, said there was something different about Friday night’s aerials competition.
"There was something special in the air tonight, for sure," he said.
Prior to Friday night’s aerials event, Peterson was honored with athletes aligned in a row at the base of the White Owl run, hands to their sides, thinking about their lost comrade and competitor.
"Speedy taught me a lot," Ferguson said. "Just watching him do aerials — he just really inspired me to be the jumper that I am today."
Schirman said he and his coaching staff discussed the notion of competing at Deer Valley without Peterson weeks ago. He said they wanted to make sure they acknowledged the emotions that would exist and use them to their advantage.
"We dealt with it as a team and family this summer so we could get to this point," he said. "It’s a celebration of Speedy’s life. These guys did it for Speedy. We were ready, we prepared for it for the last five weeks to make sure we were ready for that and we could deal with the emotional piece."
After his second-place finish, Ferguson couldn’t help but keep smiling. He put on his green hat, then his sunglasses and leaned on his skis as he answered questions from reporters.
Asked to reminisce on his favorite memory of his friend and mentor, Ferguson had a hard time pinpointing the most memorable one.
"I have so many," he said. "Every time I rode the lift up here, I tried to think about a funny thing I saw Speedy do in his career. There’s honestly too many."
Schirman said Peterson would have been proud of his teammates’ performances Friday night. American Scotty Bahrke finished sixth overall in the men’s aerials, while youngster Allison Lee came in 10th in the women’s aerials. The Chinese trio of Xu Mengtao, Chen Shuang and Kong Fenyu went 1-2-3 on the women’s podium Friday.
Meanwhile, it was a night of beauty for Ferguson, Schirman and Co. In the days leading up to the 10-year celebration of the 2002 Games, where Speedy Peterson burst onto the scene, one of his pupils finally had his moment.
"To have his career-best finish at Deer Valley is just about as special as it could ever be, especially with our honoring of Speedy," Schirman said of Ferguson. "It’s just absolutely amazing.
"This is the best day of his life."