U.S. Places Sixth in FIS Team Aerials World Championships
Team Aerials made its FIS Freestyle World Championships debut under the lights at Deer Valley Resort on Thursday night, day seven of the 2019 FIS Snowboard, Freestyle and Freeski World Championships, presented by Toyota. 2017 World Champions Ashley Caldwell (Ashburn, Va.), Jon Lillis (Pittsford, N.Y.), and brother Chris Lillis (Pittsford, N.Y.) represented the United States and finished sixth overall.
The Swiss team of Carol Bouvard, Nicolas Gygax and Noe Roth were crowned the first FIS Team Aerials World Champions. The Chinese team of Xu Mengtao, Sun Jiaxu, and Wang Xindi came in second, and the Russian team of Liubov Nikitina, Stanislav Nikitin and Maxim Burov placed third.
Eight nations competed at Deer Valley Resort with teams consisting of three athletes (one man and two women or two men and one woman). Every athlete jumped once during the qualification round, and the combined scores of all three determined those who moved on to the final round of four teams. In finals, each athlete jumped once again, and those combined jump scores determined the medal winners. The Team Aerials format transforms aerials squads from a number of individual athletes to a unified competitive force battling it out against other nations.
The night’s result wasn’t what the U.S. team was hoping for, but the opportunity for two medal events on the World Championship level will have them pushing for the next go-around in 2021. “I really like the team event. You know we always have the camaraderie there going out and going big and watching our teammates have success,” said Ashley Caldwell. “But when you’re on the same exact team and you’re fighting against other nations there’s a different level of pull for your teammates and you really want everyone to do well. The U.S. team has the capability to be at the top of this team podium. Tonight wasn’t our night but we’ve got in the future for sure.”
For U.S. teammates and brothers Jon and Chris Lillis, Thursday’s event was an experience unlikely matched by many. “It was absolutely amazing [to be up there with Chris] and I think that it’s not a thing that a lot of people can say, being at the highest level of sport with a family member, and such a close family member like a brother. It just kind of builds the pressure and builds the intensity,” said Jon Lillis.
The U.S. Aerials Team looks forward to the rest of the competitive season ahead and they travel to Moscow next. “Moving on, we just have to come back and do the stuff that we’re capable of,” said Jon Lillis. “We have so many athletes who are top of the podium potential on this team. It’s been a little bit of a rocky start for me this season and I think that I just need to do what I’m capable of doing. There’s not a World Champion anywhere who likes being in fifth place, so I need to get back in the swing of things and back to my prior confidence levels, and keep the support from the fanbase so we can keep pushing.”
Team Aerials results