Beijing’s Bird Nest ready for FIS Freestyle Ski World Cup
BEIJING, CHN - Final preparations are underway for one of the biggest events of the year on the 2013/14 FIS calendar. FIS Freestyle brings World Cup ski action to the capital city of the most populous nation on earth. On 21st and 22nd December, aerials competitions presented by Audi will be staged at the iconic Bird's Nest Stadium in Beijing (CHN).
Built to host the ceremonies, and Athletics events for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Summer Games, the grounds of the Bird's Nest have been transformed from a Summer Olympic venue into a freestyle mecca for the first of what will become an annual stop on the FIS Freestyle calendar. Gone is the grass pitch, and in its place is a massive, regulation-sized aerials venue made of scaffolding and snow.
China is the current world powerhouse in aerials, with both the men's and ladies' 2013 world champions and 2012/13 men's and ladies' crystal globe winners for overall World Cup performance hailing from the nation.
With back-to-back aerials titles of the 2012/13 ladies' Freestyle overall crystal globe and 2013 FIS Freestyle aerials world champion, Mengtao Xu is the unofficial leader of the Chinese team and the odds-on favourite to win every time she straps on aerial skis.
For the Chinese men, Zongyang Jia will lead the charge in Beijing. Also coming off a World Cup winning season that included back-to-back wins on consecutive days in Lake Placid (USA), as well as a third-place finish at the FIS Freestyle World Ski Championships in Voss (NOR), Jia only has 25 World Cup starts to his name, but has been on the podium in nearly half of those, with nine victories.
Behind Jia is the man who won the 2013 World Championships – Guangpu Qi. Qi was the aerials crystal globe winner in 2010/11 season, and showed with his performance at the World Championships and win at the Olympic test event in Sochi last year that he is a competitor that can step up on big occasions.
But a strong international field means that nothing is for certain as far as results go. In last week's ladies event at Beida Lake it was the young American Ashley Caldwell who claimed second place with an inspired performance. The strong Australian team will field four athletes who can make the podium at any time.
In the men's event, skiers such as 2013 World Championship silver medalist Travis Gerrits (CAN), last week's second-place finisher Anton Kushnir (BLR), or last year's World Cup overall aerials runner up David Morris (AUS) will all have something to say come competition day in Beijing.
This year's event will be shown on live TV to a potential audience of over 200 million viewers. The Beijing event is planned as an annual stop until the conclusion of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang (KOR).
Full event program can be found HERE