China completes weekend sweep at first-ever World Cup aerials team event
BEIJING, CHINA – The 2014/15 World Cup aerials season-opening weekend finished with a highly successful, first-of-its-kind aerials team event in the Bird's Nest stadium in Beijing, China.
After a standard aerials World Cup competition on Saturday, athletes were back to the massive scaffold jumps set-up at field-level in the Bird's Nest for a round of individual qualifications followed by the team event finals.
At Sunday morning's team captain's meeting, non-nation-specific teams of three jumpers, composed of at least one athlete from each gender, were finalized and registered with officials. On Sunday afternoon athletes then arrived at the stadium to participate in a single-jump qualification round that would serve two functions; one, to establish the scores for each athlete on each team that would be added together to see if that team would qualify for the six-team final; and two, to give each athlete an individual score that would stand as their result on the day to be used to award FIS and World Cup points.
Ladies' qualification saw the same names at the top of the board as did Saturday's competition, as Xu Mengtao (CHN), Kiley McKinnon (USA), and Danielle Scott (AUS), went 1-2-3, with McKinnon and Scott switching positions from yesterday's podium and Xu taking top points in back-to-back competition days.
In men's qualification, Qi Guangpu also took top honours for the second straight day, with his and Xu's results put all the pieces in place for a perfect weekend for the host Chinese team come team event time. Qi was followed up by countryman Zhou Hang in second, and Mac Bohonnon (USA) in third with what was a personal best score for the 19-year-old.
From qualifications it was into final one, where the USA team composed of McKinnon, Bohonnon, and Michael Rossi lead the way with top combined qualification scores, ahead of teams China 1, China 2, Russia, Belarus, and a Russia-China split squad.
Final one was packed with crashes, including one from Bohonnon that left all the pressure on final jumper Rossi to stick his landing to get his team through. And while he was able to get his feet under himself cleanly, his ski popped of from the impact, leaving him tumbling down the course and the top-qualified team on the outside looking in for final two.
Even without the Americans, final two was a stacked affair, with a Russian team that included Saturday's second- and third-place skiers Pavel Krotov and Ilya Burov, an always powerful Belarusian team, and the China 1 team that included Xu, Qi, and Jia Zongyang.
Unlike final one, final two was a stomped affair, with each skier on each team sticking perfect or near-perfect landings. The final jump of the weekend was left up to reigning world champion Qi, the last to go after witnessing Krotov throw down a sharp full, double-full, full for the Russians.
Qi's double-full, full, full was rated slightly more difficult than Krotov's jump, and though his execution may have been less precise, that increase in difficulty may have been what gave him the boost to elevate the home squad above the Russians by the barest of margins: when all was said and done, China 1's combined score of 324.69 was only 2.10 better than the Russian's 322.59.
The win by China 1 in the first-ever World Cup aerials team event but an exclamation point on an impressive weekend for the home squad, with Chinese athletes on top of the standings in nearly every phase of every event. And while the team event was a huge success for China, it was also a great success for World Cup aerials skiing, as the thrills, emotion, and smiles shown by athletes and fans alike through the course of the competition suggested that a new chapter for aerials skiing may have been started in Beijing's spectacular Bird's Nest stadium on Saunday.
Team event results can be found HERE
Ladies' qualification results (for World Cup points) can be found HERE
Men's qualification results (for World Cup points) can be found HERE