Ladies' aerials World Cup season preview
The 2015/16 FIS Freestyle aerials World Cup tour gets underway on December 19-20 with back-to-back aerials and aerials team events in Beijing. This will be the third consecutive season that Beijing hosts World Cup aerials competition, but it will be the first World Cup there since the city was awarded the honour of hosting the 2022 Olympic Winter Games. Along with Beijing, stops in Deer Valley and Lake Placid, USA, city events in Moscow, Russia, and Minsk, Belarus, and the World Cup finals in spectacular Sierra Nevada, Spain, all have 2015/15 looking like one of the best season's yet on the aerials tour.
1 – Kiley McKinnon (USA - 407pts)
2 – Ashley Caldwell (USA - 324pts)
3 – Danielle Scott (AUS - 296pts)
(Full list HERE)
Kreischberg 2015 Freestyle World Ski Championships
Gold – Laura Peel (AUS)
Silver – Kiley McKinnon (USA)
Bronze – Xu Mengtao (CHN)
2015/16 should be an interesting season on the World Cup aerials tour, coming after a sea change in the world of ladies' aerials. In 2014/15, for the first time in a half-decade, a traditionally dominant Chinese team was dethroned by a gang of young upstarts from the USA, Australia and Russia.
For the first time since the 2008/09 World Cup season (and for the first time since Deer Valley 2005 on the World Championships side), an athlete non-Chinese athlete took top honours.
In the crystal globe race, 20-year-old Kiley McKinnon (USA) – the 2012/13 aerials “Rookie of the Year” – was able to ride a wave of consistent, technical jumping to the top. She scored podiums in five of seven events while upping her execution and degree of difficulty nearly every time she dropped in for a jump.
While she was unable to secure the first victory of her career, three second-place and two third-place results were enough to put McKinnon at the head of the pack and give the U.S. aerials team their first ladies' crystal globe since Nikki Stone won it in 1998. Along with the crystal globe winning season from her compatriot Mac Bohonnon on the men's side, McKinnon helped give the U.S. squad their first double crystal globe season in 20 years.
McKinnon also took silver at the Kreischberg 2015 Freestyle World Ski Championships, showing her talent and maturity on the biggest stage of the year while falling just short of the mark set by Laura Peel (AUS), who won the first aerials World Championship title for Australia since the legend Jacqui Cooper did it in 1999.
McKinnon wasn't the only huge positive for the U.S. ladies' aerials team. Ashley Caldwell, an aerials “Rookie of the Year” in 2009/10, had the best season of her career, scoring two victories and a second-place to land in second in the final standings.
Caldwell's first victory of 2014/15 on home soil in Deer Valley came nearly four years to the day after her first career victory, announcing a return to form after several injury-plagued seasons. With a fourth-place finish at Kreischberg also on her list of achievements last season, Caldwell's was another great story for the U.S. aerials team, and the vivacious triple-flipper looks poised to be a force in 2015/16 all over again.
Moving down the 2014/15 standings list, you'll find that skier after skier had career years. Danielle Scott (AUS) scored three podiums – including the first of her career and her first career World Cup victory – on her way to finishing third overall. Veronika Korsunova (RUS) also racked up three podiums, also including the first of her career, to finish fourth. And Hanna Huskova (BLR) ended the season in fifth, with a season that saw her (you guessed it) claim her first career podium.
All the conjecture will be out the window come competition time at the season kick off in Beijing, when the likes of McKinnon, Caldwell, Scott, and Peel put last year's highs put that behind them and step into the home court of the team who still fancies themselves the best aerialists in the world, regardless of the standings. Whether the rest of the world will be able to face down Xu and her squad and still stomp their landings remains to be seen, but the successes experienced by so many young aerialists last season will be sure to