Aerials World Cup 2015/16 season recap
The 2015/16 FIS Freestyle Skiing aerials World Cup season came to a close on February 22 after six events held on three continents and at four different locals, including highly-successsful city events in Beijing (CHN) and Moscow (RUS).
The sea-change that started on the 2014/15 FIS Freestyle Skiing aerials World Cup became even more pronounced in 2015/16, with first-time crystal globe winners once again topping both the ladies’ and men’s standings, first-time World Cup podiums achieved by athletes on both the ladies’ and men’s sides at seemingly every event, and the Chinese team completely shut out of the the top three spots for either gender for the first time since the 2007/08 season.
Ladies’ 2015/16 aerials World Cup:
Crystal globe: Ashley Caldwell (USA) - 409 points
Silver: Danielle Scott (AUS) - 325 points
Bronze: Alina Gridneva (RUS) - 247 points
Rookie of the Year: Morgan Northrop (USA) - 79 points
After an incredible 2014/15 saw the resurgent US aerials squad capture both the men’s and ladies’ crystal globes in the same season for the first time in 20 years, the good times kept rolling on the ladies’ side when Ashley Caldwell showed the true powers of perseverance by claiming top honours on the 2015/16 aerials World Cup season and the second straight US crystal globe.
Caldwell, who very nearly retired from the World Cup in 2013 at just 19 years old after suffering devastating back-to-back knee injuries that kept her out of competition for two full seasons, started 2015/16 right where she finished the previous campaign in Minsk (BLR) - taking victory in Beijing with a gutsy triple-flipping jump while the rest of her competitors stuck to safer doubles.
The 22-year-old would go on to score three more podiums over the course of the season, including a repeat victory in Minsk at the World Cup finals, holding on the yellow leader’s bib from season's start to finish while establishing herself as the most explosive and exciting jumper on the ladies’ tour. With 2014/15 crystal globe winner Kiley McKinnon supporting her and this season’s Rookie of the Year Morgan Northrop showing great promise, Caldwell leads a US team that could dominate the aerials World Cup for years to come.
The battle between Caldwell and second-overall finisher Danielle Scott (AUS) was great viewing throughout the season, with the US athlete's take-no-prisoners approach contrasting strongly against the Aussie's refined technique.
While a winner like Caldwell is always the top story, perhaps the most exciting trend on the ladies’ aerials World Cup circuit in 2015/16 was the emergence of so many new competitors from so many different nations showing skills worthy of the podium.
Quan Huilin (CHN), Alexandra Orlova (RUS), Samantha Wells (AUS), Alina Gridneva (RUS), Zhanbota Aldabergenova (KAZ) and Madison Olsen (USA) all scored their first World Cup podiums in 2015/16, with Gridneva the standout amongst that group with a third-overall finish on the season. With so many emerging talents from such a diverse selection of nations competing in some of the most exciting venues in Freestyle, the ladies’ aerials World Cup promises to be even more compelling in 2016/17.
Men’s 2015/16 aerials World Cup:
Crystal globe: Oleksandr Abramenko (UKR) - 309 points
Silver: Maxim Gustik (BLR) - 276 points
Bronze: Petr Medulich (RUS) - 244
Rookie of the Year - Lewis Irving (CAN) - 142 points
On the men’s side it was Eastern Europe reasserting it’s aerials dominance in 2015/16 with Oleksandr Abramenko (UKR) leading the way, as the 27-year-old completed the best season of his decade-long career to take home the first-ever Freestyle crystal globe for the Ukraine.
With three podiums and five top-5 finishes in the season’s six events, Abramenko was far-and-away the most consistent jumper on the season, despite not taking any victories. A string of three straight podiums from the second Beijing (CHN) competition through both of the Deer Valley (USA) events highlighted Abramenko’s season, and when it came right down to the wire in a closely-fought battle for the men’s globe he was able to step up and put down a fifth-place performance in Minsk to edge hometown favourite Maxim Gustik (BLR) for the title.
While there were less revelatory newcomer performances on the men’s side than the ladies’, there were still surprises aplenty.
Sochi 2014 silver medalist David Morris (AUS) returned from a year away from competition to start the season off with back-to-back podiums in Beijing to grab an early hold on the yellow bib. 2011/12 crystal globe winner Olivier Rochon (CAN) scored his first podium in three years at the first Deer Valley competition, only for Naoya Tabara (JPN) to one-up him two days later with his first podium in four years at the second Deer Valley competition.
And then there was Petr Medulich (RUS), who returned to competition after a three year absence to claim two podiums - including his first career victory - and finish the season third overall which, along with his teammate Ilya Burov’s two-podium season, made for a strong campaign for the emerging Russian squad.
While last season’s crystal globe winner Mac Bohonnon (USA) struggled for much of the season - aside from a victory at the penultimate competition in Moscow (RUS) - first career podiums for the Lillis brothers Christopher and Jonathan in back-to-back events to close out the season would help ensure the US team would take its second consecutive aerials Nations Cup title and continue a renewed dominance over the aerials World Cup after so many season of Chinese supremacy.