Skip Navigation
Regional News
China's Zhongqing Liu defies gravity with the Adirondack Mountains in the background.  China dominated the aerial competition in Lake Placid, taking four out of six medals including both golds. Photo: Nancie Battaglia, NCPR Winter Olympics correspondent
China's Zhongqing Liu defies gravity with the Adirondack Mountains in the background. China dominated the aerial competition in Lake Placid, taking four out of six medals including both golds. Photo: Nancie Battaglia, NCPR Winter Olympics correspondent

Freestyle aerial jumps graceful, bone-crunching

Listen to this story
With the Sochi Winter Olympics now less than three weeks away, it was a huge pre-Olympics weekend in Lake Placid.

Skiers from all over the world gathered for the World Cup freestyle championships, which included mogul competition at Whiteface Mountain in Wilmington and aerial jumping at the Olympic complex in Lake Placid.

Hear this

Download audio

Share this


Explore this

Reported by

Brian Mann
Adirondack Bureau Chief

Don't forget to bookmark NCPR's Sochi Winter Olympics page, which will have all the latest news and updates from Russia, including dispatches and photos from correspondent and photographer Nancie Battaglia. 

USA's Nevin Brown crashes to earth.  Face plants are a part of the sport. Photo: Nancie Battaglia, NCPR Winter Olympics correspondent
USA's Nevin Brown crashes to earth. Face plants are a part of the sport. Photo: Nancie Battaglia, NCPR Winter Olympics correspondent
Many of these skiers were fighting to qualify for Sochi, hoping to grab a spot on their national teams while also polishing the moves that they'll use in the Olympics.

The jumping portion of the contest featured athletes hurtling themselves high into the air, performing complex, spinning routines, before plummeting down a snowy slope.

Brian Mann was at the jumping event on Saturday.  Here are thoughts from his reporter's notebook.

Okay, first of all, no.  No way.  I can sort of grasp the idea of long-distance ski jumping, where the goal is to fly as far downfield as possible, using fat, aerodynamic wings to give you lift.

But freestyle aerial jumping involves athletes going in the wrong direction.  They literally hurl themselves skyward, hoping to gain enough air time to perform complex gymnastics.

 USA's Hannah Kearney grabs her ski during moguls competition at Whiteface Mountain.  Kearney is the World Cup point leader and a gold medal Olympian. Photo:  Nancie Battaglia, NCPR Winter Olympics correspondenet
USA's Hannah Kearney grabs her ski during moguls competition at Whiteface Mountain. Kearney is the World Cup point leader and a gold medal Olympian. Photo: Nancie Battaglia, NCPR Winter Olympics correspondenet
If that all goes exactly as planned — and that's a big if — they then have to time their re-entry with precision, hitting the slope just right, as their legs lock into position.

High in the sky is USA's Ashley Caldwell. Photo: Nancie Battaglia, NCPR Winter Olympics correspondent
High in the sky is USA's Ashley Caldwell. Photo: Nancie Battaglia, NCPR Winter Olympics correspondent
About a third of the time, the stars don't align and these daredevils perform crashes that are almost as stunning and awe-inspiring as their orbital jumps.

Don't get me wrong, I get the appeal.  Who hasn't dreamed of flying?  Who hasn't dreamed of creating that perfect moment, when everything clicks, when the rhythm of the world just works?

But testing that desire against the unforgiving nature of gravity is a young person's game. 

So with every jump I find myself torn.  As the skiers soar up against the clouds, I ooh and ahh with the crod.  But as they plummet earthward, my middle-aged knees groan in sympathy.

Visitor comments

on:

NCPR is supported by:

This is a Visitor-Supported website.