Nick Wins Raubichi; Vinecki Third
Megan Nick led the Americans with a first-place finish, her second win of the season, at the aerials FIS Freestyle World Cup in Raubichi, Belarus on Jan. 30. Winter Vinecki earned her second podium of the season, and her career, with a third-place finish. The American women shared the podium with World Cup leader Australia’s Laura Peel.
“It’s pretty crazy,” said Nick of her two wins this season. “I had a rough start to the season so I’ve just been trying really hard to improve on my jumps. To compete that full double-full again and to win again is almost a relief!” On whether the jump gets any easier, “I definitely get more comfortable. But when you're in the super final and you want to lay it down I don’t know if it gets any easier.”
“To share the podium with Winter was awesome. We have been training together all summer and it's just so fun to share a podium with a teammate.”
Vinecki was elated with her third place, earning her back-to-back podium results from last weekend’s win. “It felt pretty sweet with last week being my first podium ever to get two in a row,” she said. “I did another double-in for my final jump and was a little deep on landing. But I stood it up and made it count. I was super excited to get on the podium with my teammate. It’s been a long trip with a lot of different hurdles, including COVID-19. We’ve all been doing our best to make sure we stay safe. It’s even more worth it making it onto the podium, especially long travel throughout the last couple weeks.”
The Raubichi World Cup marks the final stop on a three-week eastern European tour for the aerial skiers of the U.S. Ski Team. The travel hasn’t been easy, but the team kept their spirits, and results, high. Seven athletes have earned 10 podiums, including two wins.
Rain and weather caused delays throughout official training leading up to Saturday’s competition. Sugary snow quality also caused challenges for speed and landing. “The snow condition wasn't great,” said Head Aerial Coach Vladimir (Vlad) Lebedev. “That presents crazy challenges with speed. Our goal going into qualifications was to perform jumps with good quality and to land. Aerial jumps have lots of impact so landing in the sugary conditions is difficult.” Most of the field toned down their degree of difficulty in the qualification round to that end.
“The woman did well, they performed probably to their max in those conditions,” said Vlad.
Three women qualified to finals: Nick, Vinecki and Ashley Caldwell. Caldwell ended the night in 11th. Dani Loeb finished 15th and Megan Smallhouse finished 25th.
On the men’s side Chris Lillis was the only American to qualify for finals. He laid down a solid full full double-full in the first round, qualifying to the second round in third. In his last jump, a double-full full full, he looked long and straight in the air, but unfortunately did not stick the landing. “Chris performed a crazy, nice jump but unfortunately did not land,” said Vlad. “But he will be there. He’s got the talent and the ability and we should see him on the podium again this season.” Lillis ended the night in sixth.
Russia's Maxim Burov continued his win streak, with his sixth first place of the season. Russia's Stanislav Nikitin came in second and Canada's Lewis Irving came in third.
Eric Loughran finished just outside of finals qualification in 13th, Quinn Dehlinger in 25th, and Justin Schoenefeld in 31st.
“We made it through these three weeks and are so happy to be returning home to compete,” said Vlad. “It’s been a challenging time and I’m very proud of this team for pushing through all of the extra stress to perform the way they have.”
Nick is especially excited to get that big green salad she’s been craving. “I’m very excited for the food back home. It will definitely include a big salad. Maybe even some green juice,” she added slyly.
The team will pack their bags and board planes home to America on Sunday. They are thrilled to be competing on home snow for the 2021 Intermountain Healthcare Freestyle International FIS Ski World Cup at Deer Valley Resort Feb. 2-6. The Feb. 6 Aerials World Cup marks the first Olympic qualifying event for any discipline across U.S. Ski & Snowboard. Due to COVID-19, this year’s competitions are closed to spectators.