Gerrits triumphs at the Bird's Nest
BEIJING, CHN – Travis Gerrits snuck in to the final and capitalized on the mistakes of the strong aerialists from China to take a huge win and close out one of the marquee events on the FIS Freestyle tour by winning the Audi Beijing World Cup aerials event at Beijing's Bird's Nest Stadium.
It was the first event where the Olympic format was used in competition, wherein the top six advance immediately from the first round of jumps. Another round for the remaining competitors decides the next six who advance, and a top 12 is made. From this top 12, the competition proceeds in a knock-out format where the field is whittled down to eight and then finally four competitors who face-off in a super final. As none of the scores are carried over, this makes a truly exciting format.
Gerrits was able to sneak into the super final in fourth place, behind reigning world champion Guangpu Qi (CHN), the reigning aerials overall champion in Zongyang Jia, and a relative dark horse on the Chinese team in Chao Wu.
Jumping first in the superfinal format, Gerrits threw down a back double full, full, full – the least difficult of the jumps scheduled by any of the athletes. However, Gerrits' jump was picture perfect, setting an early precedent that would prove impossible to beat.
Next up was 2012-13 overall aerials winner Jia, with a scheduled back full, double full, double full – a jump rated 4.9 out of 5 on the aerials degree of difficulty scale, but rated far lower than Gerrits' jump was without a clean landing. And, without that clean landing, Jia found himself in third place.
Following Jia was Wu, with a back full, full, full, the easiest jump of the finals, but a jump that was performed well and landed cleanly. As should be the case when two landed jumps are judged with one being easier, Wu took second place.
Last up was Qi, the world champion and top qualifier heading into the super finals, with the toughest jump of the night on deck and a landing needed to take the win in front of the enthusiast Chinese crowd – a back double full, full, double full. The landing on that jump, unfortunately for Qi, wasn't forthcoming, and with a full crash Qi was relegated to fourth place.
The win was the first of Gerrits' career, and carried out on the biggest stage he will see until he gets to the Olympics this February in Sochi.
The Chinese crowd was exceptionally sporting, cheering Gerrits' win despite the disappointment of not seeing one of their powerhouse team on top of the podium. At the end of the event, however, Ms. Yan, the manager of the Chinese team summed up her team's position on the disappointment, stating, “1000 World Cup medals, even in your home country, does not equal a gold at the Olympic Winter Games. We are in the hunt for the gold.”
Full results from the men's competition can be found HERE
Video Highlights of the event can be found HERE