Oleksandr Abrammenko won gold in the men’s aerials with a score of 128.51, claiming Ukraine’s first-ever medal in freestyle skiing in his fourth Olympics. Jia Zongyang finished .46 points behind, taking home the silver. Olympic Athlete from Russia Ilia Burov claimed bronze.
Men’s aerials is known for its high-flying jumps, and today was no different. The qualifying rounds saw some of the highest scores, and the final picked up right where the athletes left off. Due to the high-quality jumps in qualifying, Anton Kushnir, the reigning gold medalist, did not advance to the final. A new champion was guaranteed.
In the first round of the final, 11 out of 12 athletes performed the same jump. Everyone except for Qi Guangpu performed a variation of a quadruple-twisting triple back flip in the first round. Almost everyone landed their jump, with the exception of the two Swiss skiers. With that, American Jonathon Lillis found himself in seventh after a solid jump.
As a reminder, finalists cannot perform the same jump in the three rounds of the final.
In the second round of the final, the standard was even higher. Only one aerialist hit the ground. Most did a variation of the quadruple-twisting triple back flip again.
Reigning world champion Jonathon Ellis did not advance. The American’s height and form was off in the air. Even though he landed cleanly, it was not enough to advance on a day where so many competitors were perfect.
Lillis was skiing with a heavy heart during the Olympics. His younger brother Mikey, also an aerialist, suddenly passed away four months ago. After returning to competition, Lillis had been channeling his grief into some of the best jumping of his career. His run of top finishes ended at eighth overall in the Olympics.
In the last round of the final, Ilia Burov jumped first. He had already improved on his final result from Sochi, where he finished 16th. His jump went perfectly, with huge height and a great landing. It was just a matter of what the five skiers did behind him. His score of 123.53 ended up holding up for the bronze medal.
Oleksandr Abrammenko finished last in the super final in Sochi. He performed a variation of the quadruple-twisting triple back flip. What differentiated him from everyone else was his form in the air. His skis never came apart, and he nailed the landing. He went third, so he still to watch three more skiers jump.
First was Belarusian Stanislau Hladchenko, who went for broke in the final. He is only 23 years old and was ranked fifth in the world championship last season. He came into the Olympics competing well, with four top-10 World Cup finishes this season. He attempted a triple somersault with five twists. It was the highest degree of difficulty performed all night. He almost had it but came up short on the landing. What makes the jump so hard is the lack of ability to spot the ground on the last twist.
Next was Canadian Olivier Rochon, who had been jumping well coming into the Olympics. He had three top-ten World Cup finishes this year. However, he did not land cleanly and would finish fifth overall.
Finally, all the pressure was on Jia Zongyang with the final jump of the competition. He was the bronze medalist in Sochi. Jia had great form and stomped the landing. It was not enough to overtake Abramenko, but he would finish with the silver medal.