Aerial skiing is a surreal sport where twists and turns get lost while watching the athletes spin into the white lights and across the black sky. This year in Sochi, the Aerial competition used a different format than the Vancouver Games. Prior to Sochi, It came down to a two-jump final. Now, competitors will slowly be weeded out over three final rounds consisting of 12 to 8 and then finally to 4 aerialists. During the event, contenders would not be allowed to make the same jump twice. This placed a higher value on strategy in the competition, as each person needed a good enough jump to get to the next round, but wanted to save the best for the Super Final. The Rosa Khutor Extreme Park would push out a few great stories from a high-flying evening, including Anton Kushnir taking a chance and nailing a gold medal jump.
Kushnir, an athlete from Belarus, was one of a few from his country that might have a chance to take home a medal. The difference was the high-risk jump that Anton would attempt. In his final jump he went for a back double full-full-double full and stomped it. This was the hardest trick in Men’s Aerials and Kushnir’s score of 134.50 echoed that. Kushnir won the gold in Men’s Aerials a few days after the Women’s Aerials competition where his teammate, Alla Tsuper, took home the Gold medal as well. This solidified the domination that Belarus had in the Aerial Skiing world, and sets the bar high for years to come.
The Silver Medal went to Australian David Morris. This was one of the biggest highlights of the evening, as Australian men have never placed in the sport prior to Sochi. Although the Australian women do have a history of placing in Aerials, Morris brought pride to his country, making this Australia’s 3 medal of the games.
Taking home the Bronze would be Zongyang Jia from China. This was somewhat of a disappointment for the country as they sent over four skiers they hoped would put up a solid fight for medal contention. Because of Anton Kushnir’s spectacular jump, it led the Chinese to go big or go home. Taking the high-risks instead of something safe was the only way for them to take gold but the Chinese could not hold onto their landings, eventually leading to their exit from the competition.
Although no Americans placed, young Mac Bohonnon had an Olympic debut to remember. Having only recently found out he would be on the Olympic team he really didn’t have much to loose. Although expectations were set low for Mac, when the competition started people realized they had underestimated him. Landing in the 5th spot after the 2nd round of Finals, he nearly made it to the Super Finals. This gave spectators of the sport someone to watch develop over the next four years, until he has another shot at Olympic Gold.