Schoenefeld First, Lillis Third in Minsk
Justin Schoenefeld claimed his first career World Cup podium with a win at Saturday’s event in Minsk, Belarus. Teammate Chris Lillis landed on the podium in third, the second podium of his career in the venue where he set the record for the youngest man to win an aerials’ World Cup in 2016. Canada’s Irving Lewis came in second.
Justin's win is the first American aerials World Cup victory since Kiley McKinnon in 2018, and the first men's victory since Chris won in Belarus in 2016.
The U.S. has historically done well in Minsk and today was no exception despite the variable snow conditions, light rain and some wind. Seven Americans qualified for finals: Megan Nick, Kaila Kuhn, Winter Vinecki, Ashley Caldwell, Jon Lillis, Chris and Justin.
It was a night for the men and Justin’s double full full full in Super Finals earned him a score of 124.89 out of a possible 135.75. Chris jumped the same trick and to earn his third place with a score of 122.17. Jon Lillis competed a full double full full in finals, but finished outside of the top six and ended the night in eighth.
“I'm pretty speechless right now,” said Justin of his win. Collecting his thoughts he continued, “I’m just shocked. It just all came so quick, all of a sudden the two finals were over and I was on top of the podium. I probably landed two of my training jumps yesterday but I managed to land all of my comp jumps down to my feet which was exactly what I was looking for. I just kept my mindset like I would have in training like I said I would and it ended up paying off!"
"It feels a lot different than [my podium] did in 2016," reflected Chris. "In 2016 I was the youngest guy to win a World Cup, it was my fourth World Cup ever. Today I was coming more from a place of confidence and knowing I had that podium-caliber, as opposed to getting up there and not expecting it—feels rewarding to do it that way. I can't speak enough to how much better our team is as a whole since Vlad took over last year. We've been working so hard and grinding every day. To podium with Justin—who is my best friend—and Lewis, who I’ve been competing with since I was 14, made it all that much more awesome!"
On the women’s side, Australia’s Laura Peel won the event, and Chinese athletes Xu Mengtao came in second, with Xu Sicon in third.
After her first finals jump, a full full earning 85.05, Ashley was extremely happy with her performance and yelled an “Oh yeah!” in the finish area. She jumped a full double full in the super final round but didn’t have a clean landing and ended the night in fifth. Winter jumped right before Ashley, and although she didn’t stick her landing, Ashley kept the vibes positive saying, “Right now we’re in first and second!” Ashley was in good spirits in the finish area, congratulating her fellow competitors as they waited for their scores. Kaila Kuhn finished seventh and Megan Nick finished eighth.
The fun isn’t over for aerials in Minsk. The Team competes in a Synchro event on Sunday before heading over to Kazakhstan for another World Cup competition, the first aerials World Cup held in the country.