Aerials showdown set to close out the week in Deer Valley

12 January 2018 17:56
Jia Zongyang (CHN)
Jia Zongyang (CHN) -

Deer Valley (USA) - The final competition of the annual three-day freestyle bonanza at USA’s Deer Valley resort is set to take to the White Owl venue for a full day - and night - of action on Friday, with the men and ladies of the aerials World Cup ready to end things in DV with a bang. 

With just one more week and two more World Cup competitions left on the 2017/18 aerials calendar after Friday night’s event in Deer Valley (back-to-back night events in Lake Placid), pressure on all athletes will be high as they seek to round into peak form ahead of PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games, which loom less than a month down the road. 

Aerials is always one of the more interesting tours to watch in an Olympic year, as top athletes who haven’t competed in seasons emerge from the shadows to take another run at a medal, others unveil newer, more difficult jumps learned on the water ramps in the off-season and rush to perfect them on snow before the big show, and still others play possum, holding back their top jumps in anticipation of unleashing them when it matters most - should they get that opportunity.

Currently leading the ladies World Cup is Hanna Huskova of Belarus, after winning the season-opening competition in Secret Garden (CHN) and putting up a seventh-place and a fourth-place result in the two competitions after that. Having just moved up to the triple jumps this season, Huskova is looking to compete with the likes of 2016/17 crystal globe winner Xu Mengtao (CHN) and Sierra Nevada 2017 world champion Ashley Caldwell, and so far she’s been able to do just that.

With 160 points, Xu currently sits second overall behind Huskova’s 186. With two wins and four total podiums in Deer Valley, the leader of the strong Chinese team should be one to watch in Friday’s competition.

Other’s to watch on the ladies’ side include last year’s winner Lydia Lassila (AUS), who will be competing in her first event of the season in Deer Valley after sitting out the first three competitions, and last year’s runner-up in Deer Valley Kiley McKinnon (USA), who comes into Deer Valley fresh off her first career victory in Moscow last week. Danielle Scott (AUS), the above mentioned Caldwell, and current third-overall Aliaksandra Ramanouskaya (BLR) should also be in the mix.

On the men’s side it’s been a remarkable return to form for China’s Jia Zongyang, the 2012/13 aerials crystal globe winner who has struggled since then to put down the landing gear on his always high-degree-of-difficulty jumps. This season, however, with his stomping boots back on, Jia has two victories in three competitions, and appears to be peaking just in time for the Games in Korea. And with Jia’s teammate Qi Guangpu holding three previous wins in Deer Valley, the Chinese team should be counted on for a strong performance on Friday.

Just behind Jia’s 200 points on the rankings are two members of the strong Belarusian team, as Anton Kushnir and Maxim Gustik, with 164 and 150 points, respectively. Kushnir in particular is one to watch, as the 33-year-old who won the 2009/10 crystal globe and gold at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games continues to defy age and comes into Friday’s Deer Valley competition fresh off a win in Moscow last week. 

It’s been nearly nearly 10 years since a member of the host US squad stood on top of the podium in Deer Valley, with Ryan St. Onge last doing it back in 2009. The last US skier to podium at the resort was Mac Bohonnon in 2015 and he, or his teammate and Sierra Nevada 2017 world champion Jonathon Lillis, will be the top local hopes in Deer Valley.

Aerials World Cup competition in Deer Valley gets underway with ladies’ qualifications at 14:40, followed by men’s qualifications at 17:05, and finals under the lights at 20:00MST.