Anton Kushnir soars to gold with incredible jump
KRASNAYA POLYANA - Anton Kushnir of Belarus was able to put down the jump of his life to win aerials gold at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games on Monday night, beating the 2013 World Champion and the 2012/13 FIS World Cup aerials overall winner in the process.
The silver medal went to a jubilant David Morris of Australia with a score of 110.41, while bronze went to JIA Zongyang (CHN) after he fell in his final jump and recieved a score of 95.06.
MORRIS jumped first in the super final, and cleanly stomped a back double-full, full, full to start things off. While the degree of difficulty of his jump was by far the lowest, Morris had a strategy that would pay off when athletes jumping behind him would fail in their attempts, earning him the first aerials medal for an Australian man.
After failing to qualify with his first jump, Kushnir stuck his last-ditch second qualifying attempt and was nearly perfect from there on, sticking clean landing after clean landing to make his way through the unforgiving Olympic Winter Games elimination format.
Jumping second in the super final after qualifying in third from the final two, Kushnir landed a back double-full, full, double-full air that earned him a score of 134.50, the highest of the night in any round by more than 13 points.
"I did it several times (in training)," he said of the jump that would ultimately win him gold. "I can't say I did a lot of times but I practised it and it worked out well."
Jumping after Kushnir in the super final was 2013 world champion Qi Guangpu (CHN). Qi had been jumping solidly from the outset but he appeared to misjudge his speed on the in-run on his final jump. He flew slightly lower off the lip than he needed to perform the same jump as Kushnir - a back double-full, full, double-full - and crashed after trying to force his body through the last rotation.
Last to jump was top qualifier and 2012/13 aerials world cup overall winner Jia Zongyang (CHN), with a planned full, double-full, double-full jump. While he looked perfect in the air, JIA pitched forward upon setting down, performing an unscheduled extra flip as he fell down the landing.
While his landing out of the fall was perfect, it was not the one the judges were looking for, and JIA would be forced to settle for third, handing the gold to Kushnir and ending a somewhat disappointing Olympic Winter Games for the highly touted Chinese aerials team.
Kushnir's win maintained a streak of five Olympic Winter Games in which a Belarusian man has won an aerials medal, carrying on the legacy of his teammates Alexei Grishin and Dmitri Dashinski, both of whom are likely to retire after Sochi 2014.