Beida Lake gets World Cup aerials competition rolling

15 December 2013 08:42
Men's and ladies' top 3 from Beida Lake, CHN
Men's and ladies' top 3 from Beida Lake, CHN -

BEIDA LAKE, China – With the conclusion of Sunday's World Cup aerials competition in Beida Lake, all five FIS Freestyle events have now registered an event in the 2013-14 season, and the final leg for qualifying for Sochi 2014 is officially in full swing.

Sunday's event saw some typically strong results for the Chinese team, as the host nation's athletes filled out half of the top 10 in both the men's and the ladies' events. A full sweep of either podium was narrowly missed.

The big story in the ladies' program was the return of Vancouver 2010 Olympics silver medalist and three-time FIS Freestyle world champion Nina Li (CHN), who stepped up to claim victory in only the second World Cup event she's entered since Vancouver. While not the most difficult jump attempted in the big final, Li's back double-full, full was executed well enough to give her the 17th victory and 43rd podium of her career.

Perhaps even more impressive was the performance of Ashley Caldwell (USA). Caldwell, only 20 years old and with a mere seven World Cup starts in her career, returned to competition after missing a year due to injury and threw down a brilliant back full, double-full to earn herself second place and very likely a place on the U.S. Olympic team. Caldwell's score of 93.41 was only .7 off the standard set by Li, who registered a 94.11.

Third place went to Sicun Xu (CHN), while reigning World Champion and 2012-13 Crystal Globe winner Mengtao Xu rounded out the big final field, taking fourth after failing to properly execute what was the most difficult jump of the ladies' competition, in a back lay, double-full, full.

In the men's event it was Anton Kushnir breaking up the all-China podium party taking second place behind Zhongqing Liu (CHN) and ahead of 2012-13 men's Crystal Globe winner Zongyang Jia (CHN).

Liu came into the Beida Lake event with only six podiums and zero victories in 42 World Cup starts, placing him well down the Chinese depth chart behind athletes like Jia and 2013 world champion Guangpu Qi. However, on Sunday, Liu was able to cleanly execute an exceptionally difficult back full, full, double-full to edge Kushnir, Jia, and fourth place competitor, 2013 world championships silver medalist Travis Gerrits, for his first career win.

Even with a clean landing, Kushnir's less-difficult back lay, double-full, full was not enough to challenge Liu, while Jia's back double-full, full, full, though just as difficult as Liu's jump, wasn't clean enough for better than third.

Beida Lake is the first of back-to-back aerials events in China to jump start the 2013-14 World Cup season. From here, the tour moves to Beijing for what may be one of the biggest events of the year in any FIS World Cup discipline, as World Cup aerials action takes over the iconic Bird's Nest stadium in the capital city of China for what should be an explosive weekend.