Xu and Kushnir take victory at Olympic test event aerials World Cup
Bokwang, KOR - The first of this weekend’s two Olympic test event World Cup competitions in Bokwang Phoenix Park - the soon-to-be site of Freestyle Ski competitions at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games - saw Xu Mengtao (CHN) lead a ladies’ sweep of the podium for China and Anton Kushnir (BLR) take his third victory of the season in the men’s competition.
Windy conditions on Friday evening in Bokwang made things difficult for all competitors, forcing many athletes to ratchet down the degree of difficulty on their jumps and carefully ration their speed and air time from round to round. Factor in the personality of an unfamiliar venue and the added desire to make a mark at the site when Olympic gold will be awarded in just over a year, and it all made for a dramatic competition.
In the ladies’ event it looked like an incredible winter for the Australian squad would add another highlight, as 2015 world champion Laura Peel and World Cup leader Danielle Scott rolled in to the big final ranked two and three behind China’s Yang Yu.
However, in the big final, every one of the competitors save for Xu struggled mightily, with the Aussies fairing worst of all. While Xu’s clean double-full, full, earned her a score of 96.93 for the win, her compatriot Shen took second with a heavy back-slap on her full, double-full that earned a score of 72.26, while Yu completed the Chinese sweep with a relatively easy lay, tuck, for 70.72 points.
Xu’s win allowed her to overtake Scott on the leaderboard and retake the yellow leader’s bib”
“I’m so happy to have my second win of the season here in PyeongChang and to wear the yellow bib again,” said Xu after awards, “It’s a beautiful victory and I’m proud of myself.”
Kushnir takes third victory of 2015/16
The men fared a little better than the ladies in putting down the landing gear, though for all three of the podium winners it took all they had to ski away from their final jumps without crashing. And, with all three men finishing with scores within a range of three points, the minor difference in each athletes’ landing would end up making the difference in the results.
Kushnir ended up with a score of 119.47 on his full, double-full, full, for the win. Just behind, with a score of 118.55 was World Cup leader Qi Guangpu, who was able to hold on to his advantage on the World Cup leaderboard with the second place result. Third on the night went to Mac Bohonnon (USA), who performed the same jump as Qi but drifted slightly on his and has to fight the hardest for his landing.
“To come here and win in Korea is very special,” said Kushnir of his victory, “the weather conditions were very tough with the wind, but I was able to do the jumps I wanted and get the landings and so I’m really happy.”
Action in Bokwang continues tomorrow with the World Cup moguls competition. Finals for that event begin at 19:00 local time. Meanwhile, the aerials tour will be moving now to Minsk (BLR) for World Cup competition on February 25th.