2nd Place in Deer Valley
When the fireworks shot off after the aerials event at the Deer Valley Freestyle World Cup on Thursday night, the American squad actually had a reason to celebrate.
Unlike last year, when Team USA didn’t finish on the podium in either the men’s or women’s aerials event, this year’s competition saw the Americans defend their home turf in style.
In the women’s competition, Kiley McKinnon earned her third podium finish in three events this year, taking second place. She was joined on the podium by teammate Ashley Caldwell, who landed a lay-double-full-full and a full-full-full in the finals to take first place.
McKinnon clinched a podium spot before Caldwell attempted her final jump. Up at the top of the White Owl course, Caldwell said she was excited to hear that news.
“I was so stoked for her,” she said. “Three podiums in a row? That’s impressive — Kiley is killing it.”
When Caldwell landed her jump to take first place, McKinnon said she was equally excited for her teammate. The pair celebrated in the finish area when the final scores were handed down.
“It’s amazing,” McKinnon said. “She’s so awesome. It’s so fun jumping with her and I’m just so happy for her. She loves doing triples — she’s crazy.”
The moment was extra special for Caldwell, who had visitors in town watching her compete.
“My whole family is here,” she said. “This is like the first time my sisters have ever seen me jump. I’m really excited to have everyone here and have the support of the home crowd.
In the men’s contest, eight Americans made the 12-man finals, with Mac Bohonnon securing a second-place podium finish when all was said and done.
“I can’t even tell you the last time that happened for the USA,” Bohonnon said. “And to do it in front of a home crowd is just unbelievable.”
In addition to Bohonnon, Mike Rossi, Jonathon Lillis, Nevin Brown, Zach Surdell, Kendal Johnson, Alex Bowen and Eric Loughran all made the 12-man finals for Team USA.
The second-place finish came as a bit of a surprise for Bohonnon, who said he didn’t have his best week of training leading up to Thursday’s competition.
“I knew I was capable of doing this, but I had really rough training the first three days here,” he said. “I was bruised and battered, but my coach actually made a bet with me that I would land every single jump here today, which I did.”
Qi Guangpu of China earned first place and Oleksandr Abramenko of Ukraine took third.
Bohonnon said having so many teammates up at the top of the hill with him was a boost to his confidence as well.
“All of us were up there at the same time together,” he said. “We’re just having fun. It was awesome. We couldn’t be happier.”
Caldwell added that closeness among the teammates is making this a special year for U.S. aerials.
“It’s exciting for our team as a whole to have a lot of new athletes and a big team we brought to Deer Valley. The camaraderie on our team is incredible right now.”
Unfortunately for the aerialists, there’s no time to celebrate a strong performance at Deer Valley. The team boarded a plane on Friday morning to go to Austria, where World Championships will be held next week.
Caldwell said she wished she could spend time with her family, but will opt to rest up for a trans-continental flight instead.
“I’m going to pack my bags and go to sleep, probably,” she laughed.
The Deer Valley Freestyle World Cup continues Saturday night with a dual moguls competition.
The final round is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. at the Champion ski run.