China soars over World Cup field
LAKE PLACID – Zongyang Jia completed a sweep of the men’s competition Saturday to lead an impressive performance by Chinese freestyle skiers at the USANA Freestyle World Cup in Lake Placid.
Jia won for the second time in as many days at the Olympic Jumping Complex, and it was his third victory in the past four World Cup aerials events held in Lake Placid dating back to January 2012.
Chinese teammate Yu Yang captured the women’s title.
Jia, who extended his lead in the aerials World Cup points standings, won with a score of 115.38 points. Veteran Dmitri Dashinski of Belarus finished runner-up to claim his second medal in eight days after he won at the last World Cup tour stop in Val Saint Come, Que. Russia’s Petr Medulich rounded out the podium in third place for his second bronze-medal performance in as many years in Lake Placid.
The event included three sets of jumps that began with full men’s and women’s fields competing in a qualifying round. The top 12 finishers moved into a second round, and the top four then advanced into the final round where the medals were determined. Thirteen nations were represented in Saturday’s aerials contest, which wrapped up three days of action at this year’s freestyle World Cup tour stop in Lake Placid.
Jia’s winning final was a back-double-full-full-full jump. Dashinski earned the silver with score of 112.72 points and Medulich took the bronze with 110.62 points on his last attempt.
Yang was the lone skier who landed her jump in the women’s final round, with the other three finalists falling on a day that saw temperatures rise, which made the snow on the landing hill heavier and wetter as the competition progressed.
Australia’s Lydia Lassila, the aerials gold medalist at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games, earned the women’s silver medal and China’s Mengtao Xu finished third. Xu had won three straight titles in Lake Placid prior to Saturday after she won last year’s two aerials World Cup competitions at the venue. Xu had won four World Cup events in a row heading into Friday’s contest, and remained at the top of the women’s standings after collecting two medals over the weekend in the Olympic village.
Yang won with 85.65 points, Lassila finished with 79.04 points and Xu had a jump of 74.48 points in the final round. China’s skiers captured seven of the 12 medals up for grabs during the two days of competition.
The silver medal was the third of the season for the veteran Lassila, who stopped competing after Vancouver to have a baby. Her 20-month old son Kai, is back home in Australia.
“My husband and I decided after I won in Vancouver that we would start a family and then I would come back to compete,” Lassila said. “It’s really gut wrenching not being with my son and my husband, but this was our plan. It’s been worth it. I’m glad I made this decision, and fortunately, I will be with them again next week. I thought I would be able to travel with Kai wherever I go, but I found out just how tough that was.”
Lassila said although the warmer weather on Saturday benefited the spectators, it made things difficult for the athletes.
“I kept my composure,” said Lassila, who is looking forward to defending her Olympic title next year in Sochi, Russia. “The conditions kept changing all day. I had a tail wind on my second jump and the next time there was a head wind, so I had to start two more ski lengths up the hill and trust that my speed was right. I just relied on my experience.”
United States aerialists struggled on Saturday, and came out of the weekend with just one medal, a bronze captured by veteran Emily Cook on Friday. The two-time Olympian and native of Belmont, Mass. missed advancing to Saturday’s round of 12 by less than one point and finished in 14th place.
Two U.S. Ski team members moved into the the round of 12 Saturday but didn’t reach the final four. In the women’s competition, Kiley McKinnon finished 10th for the U.S. women, and Nevin Brown placed seventh in the men’s contest.
The World Cup aerialists will next compete on Feb. 1 in Deer Valley, Utah.