Aerialists begin season searching for bragging rights at home
UOP hosts China, Australia, U.S. and Argentina in friendly
Technically, it’s still summer. At least for the next couple weeks, but things are slowly coalescing for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. At Utah Olympic Park on Sunday, aerial skiers from China, Argentina, the U.S.A and Australia suited up, clipped in, and kicked off the unofficial start of the qualifying season.
Standing on the cement deck, watching his teammates, aerialist team leader Mac Bohannon broke the competition down.
“This is fun,” Bohannon said. “This is pretty much the biggest competition we have in the world for the summer and there’s nothing on the line — no World Cup points.”
It was an opportunity for athletes to break out their top-shelf tricks, especially athletes who know they are going to the Olympics and have broken ground on new moves over the summer to prepare for the Olympics three-jump format.
Bohannon said the friendly competition, performed in the forgiving environment of the pool, brought out the best in the athletes.
“You’re landing into a pool and that opens the door to guys doing jumps they typically wouldn’t do,” Bohannon said. “You see bigger jumps kind of thrown down, especially when the field is this stacked and this good.”
The top moves on display: Hurricanes for the men, Millers for the women.
For the men, five spins during a triple backflip is the bar, and the U.S. team has been meeting that benchmark through the Hurricane, pioneered by “Speedy” Jeret Peterson.
The move is unique in that it crams three twists in during the second backflip, while other teams’ moves book two rotations during the first and last flips.
The women’s top move is generally considered a quad-twisting triple backflip – pioneered by Ashley Caldwell, who didn’t compete. Most of the team were practicing Millers, which are triple twisting double backflips.
Four U.S. men and two U.S. women made it to the second round of finals – groups of nine — and, in the end, Kiley Mckinnon took third overall behind Xu Mengtao and Zin Zhang of China. For the men, Christopher Lillis took fourth. Chinese competitors Wang Zindi took first, Qi Guangpu took second and Wu Shudi took third.
The real competition is still a ways off. The team has one more camp in Park City, so they are here for three more weeks, then they will travel to Switzerland on Oct. 10, then Finland before the start of the World Cup season, but coach Emily Cook said her team is ready for the season.
“Our team is very prepared for this season,” she said. “They are all the strongest they have ever been, the most prepared they have ever been; we are all just building up to February.”
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