Lillis Sixth in Moscow, Career Best for Smallhouse
Under a clear and chilly windless sky in Moscow, Russia, Chris Lillis led the U.S. Aerial Ski Team with a sixth-place finish. Four Americans qualified for finals, two women and two men: Megan Nick, Megan Smallhouse, Chris and Alex Bowen.
Megan Smallhouse led the American women with a career-best ninth-place finish in her first World Cup finals appearance, her first overseas World Cup start, and only her third-career World Cup start.
“I’m so grateful for this opportunity!” Megan said. “I feel like my jumping is continuing to get better week to week, and I’m excited to see what the rest of the tour brings. Adapting to new jumping sites in new countries is a challenge, but I’m learning more and more every day!”
"I'm super pumped for Smalls!" said Aerials World Cup Coach Eric Bergoust. "She jumped great all day. She struggled a little yesterday so I asked her to keep jumping. She took ten training jumps yesterday, which is a lot normally and especially difficult here. The lift doesn't go to the top so [the athletes] had to hike for every jump. Today I told her she could cut training short, but she kept jumping until the last minute of training. All of her hard work in the gym paid off. Thanks, Houston Deck [aerials athletic development coach]!"
Megan Nick successfully completed her new double full full and ended the night in tenth. "Another solid performance by Megan, landing a Miller again in the final - Triple Twisting Double Backie!" said Eric. The women's field was jumping well, lots of high DD triple flips, so earning on Saturday podium required precision.
Winter Vinecki finished just outside of the finals in 13th, "She’s jumping great, really consistent," commented Eric."[But she] went all out on her last jump and it was a little too much." Madison Varmette finished 16th and Kaila Kuhn in 17th.
On the women’s side, Belarus’ Hanna Huskova landed in the top spot, Australia Laura Peel came in second and Russia’s own Sofia Alekseeva rounded out the podium in third.
Chris was the top American finisher with a sixth place. Chris qualified in fifth out of six for the super final, landing a double full full full for a score of 110.86 out of a maximum of 137.75. In his super final round Chris completed a full double full full, and although he landed the trick, it did not score high enough to land on the podium. An excellent jumper, Chris always has high expectations of himself, "It was awesome to see him get a shot in the super final but it didn’t go our way tonight," reflected Eric.
This marked Alex’s first finals appearance since the 2019 FIS World Championships. Alex threw a full double full full and earned a 103.98 out of a possible 132.75, and just missed super finals with a seventh-place finish. "I’m definitely excited to be back on the World Cup tour with old friends and new ones, especially after I was thinking about hanging it up after last year," said Alex. "And, I’m proud I improved my result from last week in Deer Valley."
"[He was] so close to advancing to the super final, and he was jumping awesome!" said Eric. "He's consistent and getting better every week. I’m especially excited about Bowen‘s prospects next week in Minsk. He did a lot of great jumps in training and competition [this week]!"
Jon Lillis narrowly missed finals with a 13th place finish. Justin Schoenefeld finished 18th, Quinn Dehlinger in 19th and Eric Loughran in 21st.
On the men’s side, Russia’s Pavel Krotov delighted his Russian countrymen and women with a quintuple twist: a double full full double full, earning a 137.50 out of a possible 150, to win the event. Switzerland’s Noe Roth threw another quint: a double full double full full, which he first competed at Deer Valley on Feb. 7, to claim second and Belarus’ Pavel Dik rounded out the podium in third.
Aerials heads next to Belarus for another nighttime city World Cup on Feb. 22.
"This week I gained the confidence to perform my tricks under the pressure of competition," reflected Alex as he looks to the next three weeks of competition. "I did more quad-twisting triples this week than I’d done all year. This will help me to prepare for the next three weeks of competitions. Next week, I’ll continue to focus on my takeoffs as well as focus on improving my landings. Landings are the key to making it through all the rounds. Go U.S. Aerials!"