First Aerials World Cup Event of the Season: USANA FIS World Cup in Lake Placid
The U.S. Freestyle Aerials Team will compete in their first World Cup event of the season Saturday at the Olympic Jumping Complex (OJC) in Lake Placid, New York. Sixteen athletes will represent the United States, five of whom are making their World Cup debut.
Ashley Caldwell (Ashburn, Va.) and Jon Lillis (Rochester, N.Y.), current reigning World Champions, are ready to kick off the season with an event that feels like a homecoming.
“It’s really awesome to be back here in Lake Placid,“ said Caldwell. “A lot of us grew up here and began our aerials career in Lake Placid, so it's always pretty nostalgic and exciting to come back. It’s the first World Cup of the season and to have it on home turf makes it feel comfortable, and it’s really awesome to have a big team at the first event of the year.”
The Lake Placid event is always a team favorite, as most athletes partially grew up there, coming up through the Elite Athlete Development Program (EADP) and living and training at the Olympic Training Center (OTC). Roots run deep in Lake Placid, as U.S. Head Coach Todd Ossian first trained there in 1990, World Cup Coach Eric Bergoust in 1988, and World Cup Coach Emily Cook in 1992. “You have all generations here together, which is special - from the up and coming EADP athletes to both World Champions,” said Cook.
The course at the OJC is always top-notch and this year is no exception. “The hill crew here is amazing. The guys that chop it are always driving, they work hard and fast, are here early and stay late and there are lots of them,” explains Ossian. Additionally, Lake Placid has had a lot of early snow, which helps the course exponentially."
“It’s been really fun to go out there and see all the athletes from around the world that we don’t often get a chance to see. The site’s incredible, I just hope the weather stays warm,” said Megan Nick (Shelburne, Vt.).
A huge benefit for the U.S. Team at Lake Placid is the crowd. Many team members are from New England so there will be a lot of familiar faces cheering them on. Because of the rich history of aerial skiing in Lake Placid, the crowd knows about the sport, which is always fun for the athletes. “We love coming to this venue. I always loved jumping at Lake Placid. It really has a hometown feel,” said Cook. “Also the lights here are awesome. It’s like jumping in the day, so it’s a really consistent course for our athletes to train and perform on.”
The U.S. has a long history of success at the OJC, the most recent being in a 2017 World Cup with Caldwell’s victory and Mac Bohonnon’s (Madison, Conn.) finishing second. “An added fun touch when you podium here is a picture up in the OTC. So when we come to [Lake Placid] to train and compete it’s exciting to see everyone who’s made it up on the wall,” explains Cook.
Athletes to watch Saturday will be reigning World Champions Caldwell and Lillis. Native New Yorker, Chris Lillis (Rochester, N.Y.), has been jumping well and thrives in the East, where his whole family will be supporting him in the crowd. This is his first World Cup competition since sustaining an injury during the 2016-17 season. “I’m really excited to be competing at Lake Placid. Coming off of a knee injury I couldn’t imagine a better place to compete for the first time than the place I’ve been jumping at my whole career,” said Lillis. Four athletes, previously of the EADP who now train with Park City Ski & Snowboard, will jump in their first World Cup events: Karyl ‘Dani’ Loeb, Karenna Elliott, Kalia Kuhn, and Megan Smallhouse. Additionally, EADP athlete Quinn Dehlinger will make his World Cup debut.
Lake Placid Starters
Karyl ‘Dani’ Loeb
HOW TO WATCH
All times EST.
Preliminary schedule, subject to change
Saturday, Jan. 19
7:00 p.m. - Men and women’s aerials - Lake Placid, N.Y. - NBCSports.com & NBC Sports Gold
Sunday, Jan. 20
5:00 p.m. - Men and women’s aerials - Lake Placid, N.Y. - NBC**