Caldwell and Kushnir clean up in Lake Placid
Lake Placid, USA - A fantastic couple days of freestyle skiing wrapped up in Lake Placid (USA) on Saturday, as the long-time FIS Freestyle Skiing World Cup venue saw the USA’s own Ashley Caldwell claim victory in ladies’ aerials and local boy Mac Bohonnon come runner-up to the great Anton Kushnir (BLR) in the men’s competition.
The expert crew at Lake Placid did a phenomenal job preparing the venue at the Lake Placid’s Olympic Jumping Complex after a thaw-freeze weather system threatened to make some challenging conditions for aerials competition. However, come time for game day, the venue was in perfect shape for what was a highly entertaining competition under the lights on Saturday evening.
Though she squeaked through qualifications in the 10th spot (out of 12) Caldwell held the trump card in her pocket from the start of competition, as she was the only lady on hand prepared to throw triple jumps once things got serious in finals.
And come time for finals she did just that, stomping a lay, full, full to earn top marks in final one before stepping it up a notch further in the big final with an authoritative full, full, full to clock a score of 99.63 and a decisive victory.
“It feels amazing to win here in Lake Placid,” said Caldwell, “I’ve trained here for five years, so to be able to come out here and show all these people that all the work I’ve put in here is still paying off is a nice feeling.”
When pressed on her approach to competition and throwing triples when none of her competitors are stepping up to the big jumps, Caldwell went on, “I love doing triples. It’s exhilarating and difficult and scary and challenging but ultimately rewarding, and all the tough stuff I go through make days like today worth it.”
Caldwell was followed up by Danielle Scott (AUS), who qualified in the top position and jumped superbly throughout the night. Despite earning relatively higher scores than Caldwell for her big final jump, the lower degree of difficulty on Scott’s double full, full left her with a score of 92.00 and second place on the evening.
Scott did, however, earn one other important accolade, as she leaves Lake Placid with sole position of the yellow bib as aerials World Cup leader.
Third place on the night went to 18-year-old Kristina Spiridonova (RUS), who earned her first World Cup podium in just her fifth World Cup competition.
Kushnir’s comeback continues to shine
Over on the men’s side of things, Anton Kushnir’s comeback season grows more impressive with every jump, as the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games gold medallist scored his second victory in three events this season after taking nearly three years off following the Games.
Kushnir progressed steadily throughout the evening, qualifying in ninth and coming out of the first final ranked second, before stepping up with all the pressure on and nailing a full, double full, full to earn the win with a score of 120.36.
“Man, I was surprised again tonight,” Kushnir said of his second victory of the season, “I just tried to prepare and focus on the next jump, next jump, next jump. Our plan was for me to be in good form by the end of the season and I’m not sure I've had the right feeling yet, but the memory (of how to jump) is still in my head and this is helping me.”
With his win, Kushnir also claimed the yellow World Cup leader’s bib, overtaking China’s Qi Guangpu, who was not in attendance at Lake Placid.
Capping off an excellent weekend for the host US squad was Mac Bohonnon, as the local favourite topped qualifications and then powered through close calls in the landings of both of his finals jumps to earn a score of 119.46 and his first podium of the season.
“I won the wrong round today,” Bohonnon said, referring to his top qualification score, “I was hoping to get that win so that Ashley and I could share a win together, but it’s exciting nonetheless. We both got into this program here in Lake Placid back in 2008 and have been teammates ever since. Sharing a podium with any teammate is always fun, but with Ashley is really special.”
Not to be lost in what was an excellent day for the US team was also a very exciting day for the Russian squad, as 18-year-old Maxim Burov scored third place for the first podium of his career, matching his teammate Spiridonova’s performance on the ladies’ side.
From Lake Placid, the FIS Freestyle aerials World Cup now moves to Utah for the annual tour highlight competition in Deer Valley on February 3rd.