Aerials affected by weather |

Aerials affected by weather

As high winds blew across Park City this weekend, aerialists at the Utah Olympic Park had trouble finding time to get jumps in.

Competing in a North American Cup event, neither of the weekend’s two scheduled competitions reached completion, each one getting canceled after the qualifying rounds.

So, instead of competing in the finals, the winners were the jumpers who had the best qualifying jumps. U.S. Aerials Coach Joe Davies said that isn’t the ideal finish to a competition, but it’s better than putting the jumpers at risk.

"It went from snowy with a headwind to rainy with a tailwind," he said. "With that, it’s really unpredictable and really difficult to deal with."

Saturday’s contest was called off after the first round of qualifying jumps. Sunday’s made it through both qualifying rounds before conditions became too unsafe.

"It was pretty obvious with the men that conditions were quite dangerous and the winds were too high and gusty," Davies said.

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In a sport like aerials, wind cancellations aren’t that uncommon, Davies added.

"I’ve seen it happen a few times and it’s generally because of conditions like this that become unsafe," he said. "This is already a dangerous sport and, when Mother Nature doesn’t agree with you, it takes something dangerous and makes it a serious liability."

Even with the cancellations, it was a good weekend for the Americans. On Saturday, Nevin Brown won the men’s competition, with U.S. teammate Harrison Smith joining him on the podium in third place. Canada’s Lewis Irving took second place.

In Saturday’s women’s competition, USA’s Si Ning Chan took gold, with teammates Madison Varmette (second) and Erin Griss (third) rounding out the podium spots.

Sunday’s men’s podium also featured two Americans. This time, Christopher Lillis won, with Brown finishing third. Irving again took second place.

On the women’s side, it was a Canadian-dominated day, with Catrine Lavallee winning and Laurence Proteau coming in third. Varmette of Team USA finished in second place.

Davies said the weekend’s performances, while the top U.S. aerialists were competing at a World Cup event in China, will be taken into account for upcoming World Cup competitions.

"Basically, you’re looking at their potential to perform on the World Cup level," he said. "When we have a domestic World Cup, we have four extra starts because we’re the host nation. Those four extra starts are divvied out to the individuals who did well in this event."

The United States will host a World Cup event in a couple weeks, when the top freestyle athletes come to Park City for the Freestyle World Cup at Deer Valley Jan. 7-10. Though snow had been scarce in the area until the weekend’s storms, Davies said there’s no concern about whether or not Deer Valley will be able to host a successful event.

"You never really worry about Deer Valley," he said. "It’s a world-class resort and it’s a big event for them. They have great snowmaking, great cat drivers and great organizers."

With the four extra spots Team USA will be able to fill at Deer Valley, thanks to being the host nation, Davies is excited for fans to see what the Americans have to offer.

"We’ve finally reached a point that we have, at the level below the U.S. Ski Team, some serious talent," he said. "We’re really happy with our top 10 athletes, but below that, we’ve got a really high level of talent. And then, if you look at the pipeline, there are a ton of great athletes coming up. We’ve invested heavily into that."

The Deer Valley World Cup aerials event will take place on Thursday, Jan. 8, with finals starting at 8 p.m. Moguls will take place on Friday, Jan. 9, and a dual moguls competition will be held on Saturday, Jan. 10.