Crashes doom Americans in aerials at Deer Valley |

Crashes doom Americans in aerials at Deer Valley

Christopher Lillis, Kaila Kuhn and Winter Vinecki eliminated before super finals

A day that started with the third-best jump in qualifiers for Christopher Lillis ended with a frustrating somersault down the landing of Deer Valley Resort’s White Owl run.

Lillis accelerated down the hill, burst off the jump and executed his back double full-full-full and touched the ground — only to flip forward and land on his back at the bottom of the hill. Lillis knew that he could have done better. The fall dropped him in 11th place in the finals of the Deer Valley FIS freestyle World Cup’s aerial competition on Wednesday — the second-to-last round — nowhere near the top-six finish he needed to move on to the super finals for a chance to medal.

“It was a really nice jump, I was in a really good position to land it,” Lillis said. “I mean, that’s just one that I landed nine times out of 10 or 99 out of 100. Every once in a while, the skis sink a little too far into the snow and they don’t come with you, and that’s what happened.”

Lillis, a Parkite, was the sole American man in the finals on Wednesday, and the two American women in the finals suffered similar fates. Park City’s Winter Vinecki and Kaila Kuhn both failed to land their jumps, ending their days. This was the last aerials World Cup event before the Beijing Olympics in February, and Vinecki and Lillis have already clinched a spot on the U.S. team. Still, that doesn’t mean they weren’t disappointed to not perform better.

“I would have loved that round to go better and obviously get on the podium, but I’m healthy and got some good training in here, so I’m excited about that,” Vinecki said. “Honestly, I just wanted to come out and get some good jumps in, and I got some really good training jumps and a good qualification jump, so I’m excited for that and ready to get one more week of training before heading over to Beijing.”

The Deer Valley World Cup is traditionally held at night, but the daytime schedule this year meant that conditions on the aerials run changed over the course of the day. The qualifying rounds were held in the morning, but the finals took place in the afternoon as the sun started to set behind the mountain. It gave athletes like Kuhn some challenges, especially on the landing.

“It’s hard, the lighting changes, the landing gets softer, and it’s just unpredictable,” Kuhn said. “I just landed a little forward and went over the top.”

Laura Peel of Australia won the women’s event, with Fanyu Kong of China and Hanna Huskova of Belarus finishing in second and third, respectively. On the men’s side, China swept the podium with Xindi Wang in first, Longxiao Yang in second and Jiaxu Sun in third.

A few young aerialists from Park City Ski & Snowboard also made World Cup starts at Deer Valley on Wednesday. Derek Krueger, 18, made his eighth World Cup start on Wednesday and was joined by Connor Curran and Ian Schoenwald. Krueger, who is from Cleveland but has lived in Park City for three years, just missed out on the 12-man final by coming in 16th during qualifiers.

“Didn’t make it into finals, but that was pretty much the best jump that I could have expected,” Krueger said. “Rest of the season, I’m just trying to stay consistent: same jump, good takeoffs and good landings and just keep on adding twists in the future.”

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