Aerials preview: Chinese ladies seek first gold
KRASNAYA POLYANA - With four athletes capable of winning at any time, China’s ladies’ aerials squad will be looking for more than just their first gold medal on Friday, 14th February at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.
Led by Vancouver 2010 and Torino 2006 silver medallist Li Nina, China's squad is easily capable of sweeping the podium. With multiple World Champions, freestyle World Cup overall winners, and aerials World Cup overall winners, China's team finished the 2013/14 season with four of the top five positions on the World Cup leader board.
Li was at the top of that list in 2013/14 for the third time in her career, after missing three years of World Cup competition due to a series of injuries. Along with her World Cup titles and Olympic Games silver medals, Li is also a three-time World Champion. All that is left for her to win is Olympic gold.
Her teammates may have something to say about this. Xu Mengtao was the most dominant jumper on the World Cup circuit in Li's absence, winning the title in 2011/12 and 2012/13, as well as taking the 2013 World Championships, while Cheng Shuang was the 2011 World Champion. Even the fourth-ranked aerialist on team China, Zhang Xin, has three World Cup victories to her name, including one this year at a massive event in the Bird's Nest stadium in Beijing (CHN).
All of the above creates a rather difficult task for Vancouver 2010 gold medallist Lydia Lassila (AUS) as she attempts to defend her title. While the FIS Athletes’ Commission member is fourth-ranked in the world with two podiums on the 2013/14 World Cup season, she also recorded several results well outside the top 10. She will have to show the form that saw her win the Val St. Come, Canada, World Cup event in January 2014 to have a chance at the podium.