US aerialists ready to fly in Beijing

18 December 2014 09:49
Kiley McKinnon trains during a fall camp at the Utah Olympic Park in Park City, UT
Kiley McKinnon trains during a fall camp at the Utah Olympic Park in Park City, UT -
Sarah Brunson

Beijing’s famous Bird’s Nest will see some high-flying action this weekend. Time for the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team’s aerials squad to kick off its season with the first FIS World Cup in China Dec. 20th - 21th.

The USA will have six athletes competing, including Olympians Mac Bohonnon and Ashley Caldwell. While Caldwell has competed in Beijing before, this will be Bohonnon’s first international World Cup Competition outside of North America.

The on-ramp and jumps are built on top of scaffolding, putting the athletes 200 feet up in the air before they even jump. To a newcomer, it can be a little intimidating. But for Caldwell, it’s just another competition.

“I understand what I’m getting myself into,” said Caldwell. “But I haven’t done triples on a scaffolding site, so that will be exciting and new.”

Caldwell and her teammates just wrapped up a very successful fall camp in Park City, UT with both on and off snow training.

“Despite the warm weather, our jump site at the Utah Olympic Park has been really nice,” said Caldwell. “I’ve been working on new tricks and landing well, so that builds a lot of confidence going into China.”

Aerialists aren’t normally skiing indoors in a stadium, but the Bird’s Nest offers a unique environment that really pumps up the competitors.

“Aerials is a really big sport over there and they get just a huge crowd,” said aerials head coach Todd Ossian. “The venue really showcases our event well, despite it being a bit more intimidating since you’re so far off the ground.”

With the Bird’s Nest being part of the 2008 Olympic village, athletes also get to experience the legacy and spirit of Olympics past.

American athletes won seven gold medals in the 2008 track and field events, which were held in the Bird’s Nest. When walking to the venue, teams can see other venues, such as the aquatic center, where the U.S. won 12 gold medals in 2008.

“You feel like a rockstar, “ said Caldwell. “It’s cool for them to be so excited about having us there. It makes us more enthused to jump and we enjoy it.”

U.S. Freestyle Aerials Team Roster – Beijing, China

Men
Mac Bohonnon (Madison, CT)
Alex Bowen (Springville, NY)
Kendal Johnson (McFarland, WI)
Eric Loughran (Pelham, NH_
Jonathon Lillis (Rochester, NY)
Mike Rossi (Long Valley, NJ)

Women
Ashley Caldwell (Ashburn, VA)
Kiley McKinnon (Madison, CT)