Lillis First, Nick Second in Almaty Aerials World Cup
In the U.S. Aerial Ski Team’s penultimate World Cup stop, Chris Lillis landed on top of the podium at Oi Qaragai Ski Resort in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Megan Nick claimed her second-career World Cup podium with a second-place finish.
This was the first aerials World Cup competition held in Kazakhstan and eight Americans qualified for finals: Madison Varmette, Kaila Kuhn, Winter Vinecki, Ashley Caldwell, Megan, Quinn Dehlinger, Justin Schoenefeld and Chris.
“I couldn't be happier,” said Chris. “It was a new event on a new site, so a lot of unknowns. Over the course of the season, I've been working on a plan with Vlad and it’s been working, especially for the last two weeks. That was definitely one of the best jumps of my career during the super final. Moving forward I’m feeling deadly.”
Chris was on fire all day, landing all of his competition jumps to his feet. His super final double full full full was in spectacular form, earning him a score of 121.27 that could not be topped. Head Aerials Coach Vladimir Lebedev could be heard cheering from the knoll and Justin gave him a big bear hug as he skied into the finish area. This is Chris’ second career World Cup win and third-career podium, he now is ranked sixth in the men’s aerials World Cup standings. Chris shared the podium with Switzerland’s Primin Werner in second and Belarus’ Pavel Dik in third.
Quinn made his first finals appearance in his only fifth-career World Cup start. “It was such an incredible experience to be apart of,” said Quinn. “It came as a huge surprise which made that much better. On the other hand, it was a bummer it didn’t go as well as I would have liked. But I’m looking forward to being part of more of them!” Ending the competition in 11th place marks a career-best for Quinn. Justin finished fifth, Eric Loughran in 13th, Jon Lillis in 14th and Alex Bowen in 17th.
With a score just 0.58 points off the top spot, Megan earned a second-place finish, her second podium of the season and her career - this finish moves her into fourth overall for the women’s standings. Megan shared the podium with winner Nadiya Mokhnatska of Ukraine and Kazakhstan’s own Zhanbota Aldabergenova, who came in third.
“I’m just trying to stay focused on consistency and working towards higher DD moving forward,” said Megan on her competition mindset. “Kazakhstan is beautiful and everyone has been so welcoming here. Everyone was really stoked to jump on a brand new site.”
Kaila earned another fifth place in her second-career super final appearance. Winter finished sixth, Madison in ninth, Ashley in 12th and Megan Smallhouse in 15th.
“I just want to talk about how the team’s been molding [this season],” commented Chris. “We know where we are, we know where we want to be. We have one goal as a team, one standard that we’re pushing ourselves to. That’s a large part of the success, whether myself, Megan, Justin, or the whole team, that we’re all looking for. Our goal is to work hard. The whole team has taken a transformation in how we work each day. Every training day is a grind, we all have that increase in a heightened sense of worth ethic. So when it comes to comp day you can look back on all of that hard work, which leads to more confident jumping.”
The Aerials Team has a few days in Kazakhstan to rest and recharge before heading to their last World Cup competition in Krasnoyarsk, Russia.