U.S. aerialists dominate in Moscow
It was a great night for the U.S. Freestyle aerials ski team on Saturday on the scaffolding site in downtown Moscow, with Mac Bohonnon (Madison, Connecticut) landing his first win of the season. Jon Lillis (Rochester, New York) and Madison Olsen (Park City) each earned their first career World Cup podiums, finishing second and third, respectively.
The U.S. men’s team advanced four athletes — Bohonnon, Lillis, Harrison Smith (Pittsford, New York) and Eric Loughran (Pelham, New Hampshire) — to the super final, the best showing they’ve had so far this season. All the elements came together for Bohonnon, who put down three solid jumps, including a massive double full, full, full, to take the win.
"The conditions were a bit tough," stated Bohonnon. "It was pretty slow and warm, so I was skating from the top. The coaches made sure I was prepared for that, so I knew exactly what to expect. I got the speed I was looking for and took advantage of it."
Bohonnon, who won the Moscow event last year, had yet to post a top finish this season. Knowing that he could do well on the Moscow site, combined with the energy from his teammates, gave him the confidence he needed to execute the win.
"This was an incredibly intimidating event," said Bohonnon. "The crowd was huge and it was a big show. It kind of forced me to fall back on my mental routines and be positive and be confident in my jumping. Having my teammates up there helped, too. When you get up there and it’s just the small group of athletes preparing for their super jump going for the podium and half of that group is your team, it’s pretty motivating and fun."
A podium finish on the World Cup has been a long time coming for Jon Lillis, who has several top-10 finishes to his name. Jumping one after the other, Lillis and Bohonnon, who have been teammates since they were 13 years old, knew sharing the podium was a possibility.
"I’ve been close to the podium so many times, I’ve just struggled with that last jump," said Lillis. "Mac and I looked at each other right before I went and we said, ‘Let’s share this one.’ And we did."
Alina Gridneva took home the win in front of her hometown crowd followed by Kazakstan’s Zhanbota Aldabergenova in second. After missing the 2014-15 season due to a foot injury, Olsen has been looking to ramp up her performance on the World Cup this season. After completing a full, full in final one, she had to compete with a lower degree of difficulty double, a lay full, in the super final. Olsen executed her jump with nearly perfect form to land the third-place spot.
"Because of my foot injury, I wasn’t able to qualify anything new this summer, so I just stuck with our plan and it worked out," said Olsen. "I hit a good take off and had the right speed, so I was able to stay straight through the whole thing and stomp the landing."
U.S. teammates Kiley McKinnon and Ashley Caldwell also advanced to the super final, but were unable to land cleanly. McKinnon finished just off the podium in fourth and Caldwell, who still retains the yellow World Cup leader’s bib, finished fifth.
With the cancellation of the event in Sierra Nevada, Spain, the aerialists will compete in their last World Cup of the season next weekend in Minsk, Belarus.
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