Qi defends men's aerials title while Peel claims surprise ladies's gold
KREISCHBERG, AUT – The first competition of the Kreischberg 2013 FIS Freestyle Ski and Snowboard World Championships took place on Thursday night, as Laura Peel was able to navigate a crash-filled ladies' super final to take a surprise gold on the ladies' side while Qi Guangpu (CHN) was able to defend his world champion title in men's competition.
The ladies' event saw several of the athletes having difficulty throughout the final rounds, rewarding steadiness and strategy right up to the final rounds. There, clean jumps by Peel and US athlete Kiley McKinnon were able to stand up when bigger, more difficult jumps thrown by the likes of Voss 2013 world champion Xu Mengtao and Ashley Caldwell (USA) were not landed perfectly.
For Peel, it was only her second time at the top of the podium in her World Cup career, with the other occasion also coming at Kreischberg.
“My only World Cup win was in Kreischberg, and now I win the world champs here...yeah, I like this place,” Peel said following the aerials press conference, “I really wasn't expecting this at all. I was really just aiming to get into the top six and do what I could, hoping I could snag a podium, but taking the win is really unbelievable.”
McKinnon was similarly thrilled with her silver-medal performance.
“I was hoping to do well, obviously, and I've been really happy with my performances lately, so I was hoping I could come in here and just continue what I've been doing, so I'm really happy with how it turned out.”
Xu, the top performer on the World Cup so far this season, seemed upset with her inability to land her final jump cleanly, knowing that a repeat gold was hers for the taking. Still, she gave full credit to her competitors.
“I'd like to thank Austria, the Chinese team, and to congratulate the other girls on their performances.”
In the men's competition, Qi Guangpu battled back from a catastrophic qualification round that saw him squeak through to the finals in the last qualification spot, only to land incredible jump after incredible jump on his way to a second-straight world championships gold, finishing things off with a double-full, full, double-full that earned him astounding score of 139.50.
“It was amazing,” said Qi after his performance, “In yesterday's qualification I almost didn't make it through, and today I'm world champion. My passion is to jump, and to jump like this makes me happy.”
For a minute, it looked as if 22-year-old silver medalist Alex Bowen might become the new world champion, despite having only 12 World Cup starts to his name. Bowen stepped up in a huge way on the biggest stage of his career, landing a double-full, full, full jump in the super final that he had never before completed on snow.
Bowen, who was mobbed by his teammates in the finish, was quick to credit those teammates with his success.
“I feel great. But first I want to thank my teammates and all the other US kids,” he said, “It's very important to have my team and their spirit with me, and without that and without my coaches I wouldn't have been able to do what I did tonight.”
Maxim Gustik (BLR) attempted the same jump as Bowen, but was unable to land as cleanly as the US athlete, forcing him to settle for a bronze medal that would be the only piece of hardware for the famed Belarusian team.
Freestyle ski action from Kreischberg continues on Sunday with moguls competition.
Full men's results can be found HERE
Full ladies' results can be found HERE