Hanna Huskova won gold in women’s aerials with a score of 96.14. It marks the second-straight Olympics that Belarus has won the event. Reigning gold medalist Alla Tsuper finished in fourth. Chinese teammates Zhang Xin and Kong Fanyu captured the silver and bronze, respectively.
American Madison Olsen made it to the last round of the final, ultimately placing sixth overall. It was a great result for the up-and-comer.
Aerials is an event that can yield a different winner on any given day, and today proved no different. The finals began without American Ashley Caldwell and Australian Lydia Lassila—two of the most well-respected women in the sport—after they failed to qualify.
American Kiley McKinnon qualified for the final but saw an early exit in the first round. She performed the same jump as eight others in the first round, a back full-full, also known as a double-twisting double back flip. Because so many women performed the same jump, it was necessary to be almost perfect to receive the higher score. McKinnon came up just short: She had good form in the air but landed a little deep in her heels. She earned an 80.95 and finished 10th overall.
For those who don’t know, the finals is three rounds, with each round trimming three athletes. Part of the strategy of aerials is that a competitor cannot perform the same jump twice. For that reason, some of the medal favorites saw exits in the second round.
Sochi silver medalist Xu Mengtao had the second highest jump in the first round. She attempted a back full-tuck-full and landed short. She slid down the hill and failed to advance to the final round.
Two Russian teammates, Liubov Nikitina and Alexandra Orlova, also did not land their jumps, resulting in lower scores than Olsen despite the higher degree of difficulty.
Olsen was the surprise of the final. The 22-year-old was making her Olympic debut and generally had a lesser degree of difficulty than the rest of the field. When she made it to the final round, she tried a jump she had never performed in competition. She crashed on the landing but walked away with a huge smile on her face.
“It’s definitely nerve-wracking,” she told NBC. “We’ve been working on this trick all summer long. There wasn’t a better time to do it.”
In the last run, Alla Tsuper tried the most difficult jump of the group: a triple-twisting triple back flip. She had great speed going into her jump but crashed on the landing. The Belarusian was attempting the same jump that won her the gold medal in Sochi.
Instead, it was her teammate Huskova who won gold. She is only 25 years old but had six-top ten finishes in the last World Cup season. She pulled off a double-twisting triple back flip. It was flawless in the air, she had huge height and she only needed to put a hand down on the landing. It turned out to be enough to claim the title.