American women shine at World Cup as a Parkite scores silver medal
Interesting things can happen when the biggest event of the season also happens to be the first one. Despite preparing for months, athletes don’t know how they’ll compete until they fly through the air and stomp the landing.
For the women on the U.S. aerials squad on Friday night, the first event of the season proved to be no reason for doubt.
With the snow falling atop White Owl run at Deer Valley Resort, Megan Nick was the one leading the charge for the Americans.
After a flawless jump in the final, Nick knew she would have to go bigger in the super final, and that’s what she did — securing her best-ever finish with a silver medal at the FIS World Cup event with a final score of 83.39.
“It means a lot to me. … My whole family is here, my friends are here and Deer Valley is a great atmosphere,” said the Parkite and Vermont native. “It felt great, there’s no words to describe it.”
She was one of three American women to make the six-person super final, followed by a pair of Parkites in Winter Vinecki (fourth place) and 16-year-old Kaila Kuhn (fifth place). It was the type of strong statement the Americans were hoping to make at home after skipping out on one of the World Cup events earlier in the year.
“Three out of six in the super final are the U.S. … That’s amazing,” Vinecki said. “To have Megan podium and Kaila right behind me. … I think this is going to help American aerials to the forefront a little bit more.”
The athletes who make it to the super finals must throw different tricks than the ones they performed in the finals, requiring strategy depending on their respective ultimate goals.
For Kuhn, who finished with 73.37 points, her first World Cup event at Deer Valley was all about making the super finals, a significant accomplishment in itself. She threw a tougher trick in the finals to just make the final six, then just wanted to get a successful landing in the super finals, so she eased off the difficulty.
“Being on a stage like this with the best in the world, it was absolutely incredible because I’ve never experienced something like before,” Kuhn said. “Being able to get fifth was amazing. … I don’t have too much World Cup experience and I just relied and trusted on my training.”
Vinecki came tantalizingly close to making the podium, finishing with a total of 81.20 points, a mere 0.58 points behind bronze medalist Abbey Willcox of Australia. Still, she couldn’t have been happier with her result after competing at home.
“It’s amazing. … The crowd cheering before and after your jumps and being able to stick these jumps to my feet is just amazing,” Vinecki said. “I’ve been doing the same tricks I’ve done the last couple of years, so being able to be confident in those ones was the biggest goal moving forward.”
Unlike Kuhn, Nick went all out during the super finals by choosing to up the difficulty with the goal of making the podium. Her strategy paid off, though she was uncertain about the trick leading up to the final run.
“Training didn’t go so well with that jump so I was like, ‘Oh geez, I got nothing to lose now,’” Nick said. “So I just did my best and it worked out. I trained for it all summer so I knew I could do it. … And just because I couldn’t do it in training doesn’t mean I can’t put it down in comps.”
Aliaksandra Ramanouskaya of Belarus was the gold medal winner, finishing with a score of 106.74 after not only throwing the most difficult trick during the super finals, but stomping it as well.
American duo just misses the men’s podium
Much like the women, the American men had a chance for a big night after advancing four competitors into the 12-person final. Parkites Jonathon Lillis and Eric Loughran advanced to the super final, leaving the Americans a chance at a night on the podium in their first event of the season.
But it wasn’t their night in the end, as Loughran finished fifth and Lillis took sixth.
Lillis went for broke on his final run with a difficulty of 4.525, tied for third toughest in the super final. But he struggled with the landing before recording a final score 97.28.
Loughran went opposite of Lillis, electing for a safer degree of difficulty with a better chance at landing successfully, something that proved problematic for competitors in the finals. After stomping his landing, Loughran finished with a score of 113.97.
Maxim and Ilya Burov, brothers from Russia, took home gold and broze, respectively. Sandwiched between them with a silver medal was Noe Roth of Switzerland.
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