Nick Leads U.S. with First Career Podium at Deer Valley
Megan Nick led the U.S. in aerials in her first career podium, a second place, in front of 7,500 hometown fans on Deer Valley’s White Owl course at the 2020 Intermountain Healthcare Freestyle International. She stomped out a beautiful double full full, a trick she only recently brought to snow, in only the second- time in her career she has advanced to the super finals. Megan shared the podium with winner Allaksandra (Belarus) and Abbey Willcox (Australia), who came in third.
“My night actually didn't go as planned,” said Megan of her first podium. “Training was a little iffy, but I had nothing to lose in the super final so I went for it and was able to put it down. It was really special to [podium] in front of my family and friends, and the atmosphere at Deer Valley is just awesome.”
The U.S. fielded 16 athletes and four women and four men made it through to finals under the lights on Friday: Kaila Kuhn, Madison Varmette, Megan Nick, Winter Vinecki, Jon Lillis, Eric Loughran, Nick Novak, and Justin Schoenefeld.
Madison Varmette threw her first double full full in competition, but didn’t quite nail the landing and finished in 12th place. “I was a little nervous,” reflected Madie in the finish area. “But I just tried not to think about it. I did a million on water, so I just had to trust myself and my coaches. And it’s actually a lot more fun than scary!”
Kaila made her first career super finals in her fourth World Cup start. She threw a nice lay full, which scored well but didn’t have the DD to put her on the podium. “I’m super excited, getting a chance to compete with the best in the world and getting a top-six tonight was absolutely amazing,” said Kaila. “I don't have too much World Cup experience so I’m really excited to hopefully get some more top-sixes and compete with the best in the world.”
Winter had her best night at Deer Valley yet, landing just off of the podium in fourth place, a career-best, after performing a lay full. “It’s taken me a few years now to have a good result at Deer Valley, so I’m excited to just be able to stick all of these jumps to my feet,” said Winter all smiles in the finish area. “And on not quite a high DD of a trick, to be able to stick that, that was awesome. Now I know I have all the training, I can do these big jumps and compete against the best!”
Eric Loughran led the American men with a fifth-place finish. He uses the air so well and stomped both of his finals runs. “I’m feeling pretty good after this competition, it's the first contest of the year,” Eric said. “It was a late decision with Bergy and me to keep the tricks mellow, lay double full full rather than going for a bigger trick there. I’m really excited to see how the season goes.”
Jon Lillis earned a sixth-place finish with his double full full full. “I think everybody’s feeling like all of the jumping is coming together,” said Jon. “It’s all a credit to Vlad and the new energy he’s brought being the new head coach of the team. I can't wait to see how we do moving forward.”
It was a historic night on the White Owl course, perfect weather paired with a flawless course allowed the men to push it to the limits on Friday. Russia’s Maxim Burov threw a double full full double full - that’s a quintuple twisting triple backflip and the current highest DD trick in aerials - in almost perfect fashion, earning a score of 139 out of a possible 150. Switzerland’s Noe Roth threw another quint: a double full double full full, a trick he had never competed before. Quintuple twisting tricks are not unheard of in aerial skiing, but having two competed and landed in the same World Cup competition is rare. Russia’s Illia Burov rounded out the podium in third.
Megan Smallhouse finished 14th, Ashley Caldwell in 15th Morgan Northrop in 17th and Karenna Elliott (Park City Ski & Snowboard) in 21st. A fifteenth place was not what Ashley had hoped for but took it in stride, “I’m definitely a little frustrated. Deer Valley is our home event so you do want to perform here. I am motivated for the rest of the season. This is our first World Cup, sometimes it’s important to get some of the jitters and some of the mistakes out of the way first. So as we head to Moscow I’m motivated. I do want to land on the top of that podium and I’ve definitely felt some emotion here that will push me to do that.”
In her second World Cup start and first Deer Valley World Cup start, Karenna was excited to get valuable experience under her belt. “It was really amazing to be out here at Deer Valley,” she said. “The site is just awesome and the weather held out for the competition. I was a little bit slow on my jump so unfortunately, I had to punch front. But I had a lot of fun jumping out here with all of these amazing athletes.”
Justin Schoenefeld finished ninth, Nick Novak in 12th, Quinn Dehlinger in 15th, Alex Bowen in 16th, Derek Kreuger (Park City Ski & Snowboard) in 20th and Chris Lillis in 24th. “I definitely had a little bit of trouble in the final,” said Nick. “But I’ve been jumping well all day and I’m really proud of how I jumped. I wish I did some of my jumps like I did in training. But you win some and you lose some. It’s a wonderful venue, wonderful people, I couldn't be happier.”
The 2020 Intermountain Freestyle International at Deer Valley Resort served as the U.S. Ski Team aerial skiers' first World Cup competition of the season. Kicking off their World Cup tour on home snow in front of the highest energy crown in freestyle was a special send-off for these athletes that fly out to Moscow Saturday for their next World Cup on Feb. 15.
Freestyle fun continues Saturday night with dual moguls. Skiers go head to head to push each other to the absolute limit on the Champion course. Finals begin at 7:30 p.m. MST.
HOW TO WATCH
Saturday, Feb. 8
3:00 p.m. - Intermountain Healthcare Freestyle International men and women’s moguls and aerials, Deer Valley, Utah - NBC**
Sunday, Feb. 9
3:00 p.m. - Intermountain Healthcare Freestyle International men and women’s dual moguls, Deer Valley, Utah - NBC**