China tops in Lake Placid aerials team event
LAKE PLACID, USA – The second-ever World Cup aerials team event took place on Saturday night at Lake Placid's Whiteface Mountain in difficult conditions, with frigid temperatures and strong winds making for a tough night for the highest jumpers in the world.
Things at Lake Placid got going with the qualification rounds that would decide each athlete's World Cup score on the day. Results from qualification were similar to the preceding days efforts in the tough jumping conditions, in that top athletes like Kiley McKinnon (USA), Xu Mengtao (CHN), and Danielle Scott (AUS) were all unable to cleanly put down jumps with a higher degree of difficulty than the ladies who would eventually go on to place in the top three.
When the dust had settled, it would be Renee McElduff (AUS) taking her first World Cup “win” with a clean full, full jump that was just enough to give her the edge over Veronika Kursonova (RUS), and Hanna Huskova (BLR). Korsunova's result made it back-to-back second place finishes for the 22-year-old, while for Huskova it was her first career podium, and both those ladies would find themselves back on the podium at the conclusion of the team event.
In the men's qualies it was Zhou Hang leading the way, making for the fourth new World Cup winner in as many events in Lake Placid aerials competition. Zhou put down an excellent double full, full, full that would put him well ahead of his Chinese teammate and World Cup leader Qi Guangpu, while Ilya Burov (RUS) would end qualifications in third.
With points earned from qualifications all tallied up, McKinnon had widened her lead on Xu to a still-tenuous 18 points on the ladies' side, while Qi remained more than 100 points ahead of Zhou for the men.
In the team event, the ever-strong Chinese team was able to once again assert its aerials supremacy, even though Xu, their top lady, did not participate. With Xu's stand-in Shen Xiaoxue, Qi, and Zhou in particular all putting down excellent jumps, the Belarusian team lead by Denis Osipau and the Russians lead by Burov were forced to settle for second and third place respectively.
The hometown US team, lead by third-ranked aerialist Mac Bohonnon, struggled in the four-team super final, and would finish in fourth place.
The Lake Placid event was another successful running of the somewhat experimental team event, after the first such competition was held earlier this season in Beijing. Athletes and fans alike agree that the 'team' variation to a sport as individualistic as aerials adds a new dimension and atmosphere to one of the original freestyle events, boding well for the format moving forward.
Next up for the World Cup aerials tour is a city event in Moscow, the capital city of Russia, on February 21, 2015.