New aerials season set to take to the sky at Beida Lake
BEIDA LAKE, CHN – This weekend the aerialists of the FIS Freestyle World Cup tour will finally get their chance to join the festivities, as competition for the 2013-14 season gets underway for the highest jumpers in sports on Sunday in Beida Lake, China.
The Beida Lake event is the first of two Chinese competitions slated for back-to-back weekends, and may be seen as a warm-up for next weekends aerials spectacular set to take place in Beijing's stunning Bird's Nest stadium.
In the grand scheme of things, however, this weekend's showdown at Beida Lake is every bit as important as the big show coming up at the Bird's Nest, as there are just as many FIS points available for aerials athletes hungry to lock down a quota spot and punch a ticket to February's 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi.
A couple of members of the hometown Chinese team will be the clear favourites heading into this weekend's event at the picture-perfect Beida Lake venue. Last year, the home nation's Xu Mengtao and Jia Zongyang claimed their respective ladies' and men's aerials Crystal Globes, while Xu's performance on the winter was dominant enough to win her the ladies' overall Crystal Globe as the single best athlete of the 2012-13 World Cup season.
You'd have to go pretty far down the depth chart to expose a weakness on the Chinese team, as their next best skier on the men's side, Qi Guangpu, took gold at the Voss 2013 Freestyle World Ski Championships, while next best-ranked ladies' competitor Xin Zhang won at Beida Lake in February 2012 and had six top-10 finishes last season.
However, this isn't to say that there isn't any number athletes from at least a half-dozen other nations with the ability to step up and steal some of the Chinese thunder come competition day. Australia will be strongly represented as ladies Laura Peel and Lydia Lassila and top man David Morris all ranked in the top 5 of aerials overall at the end of last season. Dylan Ferguson and Emily Cook will lead a large American team into the competition, while Canada's Travis Gerrits will be looking to build on his silver medal performance at the 2013 World Championships and pick up the slack for a Canadian team that will be missing 2012 Crystal Globe winner Olivier Rochon due to a torn ACL.
The facilities at Beida Lake are primed and prepared for World Cup aerials action to get underway once again for the 2013-14 season. With 62 of the world's top aerialsts on hand representing 11 globe-spanning nations, and so much up for grabs as we move towards the January 20th cut-off date for Olympic qualification, expect competition to be top-notch right out of the gate this weekend.