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Americans stumble in Lake Placid

January 22, 2018
By LOU REUTER - Senior Sports Writer ( , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - After getting shut out from the podium on Friday during the first of two aerials World Cup competitions in Lake Placid, members of the United States freestyle ski team were hoping to come through with better results when the event wrapped up Saturday on a warm evening under the lights at the Olympic Jumping Complex.

But in a breathtaking sport where there can be a fine line between triumph and disaster, the Americans came up short again in the final contest before next month's Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. In fact, only two of the 14 U.S. skiers who competed - Eric Loughran and Nicholas Novak - advanced from Saturday's qualifiers to reach the men's round of 12. Their evenings ended with respective eighth- and 10th-place finishes.

Meanwhile, China's Xu Mengtao remained a dominant player by winning the women's contest and was again followed by Australia's strong veterans Lydia Lasilla and Laura Peel, who both medaled for the second time in as many days. And on the men's side, Maxim Burov of Russia took the top spot to capture the World Cup points championship, defending Olympic champion Anton Kushnir of Belarus grabbed the silver, and the oldest competitor in the event, 38-year-old Naoya Tabara, of Japan, soared to the bronze medal.

Article Photos

Eric Loughran of the United States soars off a triples kicker during the men’s final round of 12 in Saturday’s World Cup aerials competition at the Olympic Ski Jump Complex in Lake Placid. Watching the action is Brad Suey of Maine, who was the chief of course for the two-day event. Loughran was the top American finisher, placing eighth.
(News photo — Lou Reuter)

Things turned out much differently a year ago in Lake Placid for the host nation as two-time Olympian Ashley Caldwell topped the women's field and Mac Bohonnon took home a silver medal. This time around, they were unable to cleanly land their first competitive jumps and fell short of moving into the next round, something which they were able to accomplish the day before. Instead of nailing down spots on the U.S. Olympic team over the weekend with podium finishes, they will both have to wait to see if they are among the 30 freestyle skiers from five disciplines who will be heading to Pyeongchang. The U.S. Ski team is slated to make that announcement on Tuesday.

On Saturday, Caldwell placed 31st in the women's field of 34, and Bohonnon, who finished fifth at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, also landed in 31st place in the men's event. Kiley McKinnon, the only American aerialist who has already qualified for Pyeongchang, placed 24th on Saturday, which marked the second time in as many days the 22-year-old from Connecticut failed to advance to the women's round of 12.

The good news, however, is McKinnon will still be heading to her first Olympics, a trip she basically earned by virtue of her victory this season from Moscow, which was the first World Cup win of her career.

"My qualification jumps didn't go the way I was hoping, but I was happy to be able to put both my jumps to my feet," McKinnon said. "I'm safe, healthy. And I'm going to take a few days off and then start getting ready for the Olympics.

"In 2014, I wasn't really sure if I would qualify for the (Olympic) team and then I dislocated my elbow, so I was out anyway," McKinnon continued. "To qualify a few weeks earlier before coming here was really exciting. I was lucky to qualify early, but my teammates all deserve it, and I'm confident they'll be getting what they deserve."

Despite not moving on Saturday, Bohonnon was still upbeat and has a good shot at making his second Olympic team. On both nights, Bohonnon, who is also a 22-year-old from Connecticut, said he jumped well but just couldn't stick his landings.

"Last night, did one of the best full-double-double-fulls I've ever done," he said. "Tonight my actual jump just before the qualifying round - I did a sweet double-full-full-full. I was hitting take-offs, was landing a bunch, was super confident. I was really happy with the way I was jumping. I just had some unlucky breaks.

"It's tough when you get used to doing well week in and week out over a few years," Bohonnon added. "No doubt this entire World Cup season was a big disappointment, but I'm looking at the positives instead of just looking at the results. Hopefully, I'll get another opportunity to compete in about three weeks. I want to get back to where I was, which is doing big, sweet jumps and trying to stick landings."

Caldwell, a 24-year-old from Virginia who spent her teenage years living and training in Lake Placid, is hoping to be heading to her third Olympics next month. In addition to winning on the same hill a year ago, she also captured her first World Cup victory here in 2011. She's hoping to make the Olympic team, and after this weekend, looking to iron out the issues that have arisen during competition.

"I jumped really well in training but obviously that doesn't count when the contest comes around," Caldwell said. "I'm disappointed in my performances, but I'm jumping well and if I get named to the Olympic team I have some more time to figure out what's been going wrong in contests. I have a decent shot, and whoever is named, we'll be back here to train. We were happy to be here, it's a great site, we just didn't put it together as a team."



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