Canada's Travis Gerrits wins silver at freestyle aerials world championships
Ontarian qualifies for Sochi Olympics
Second place was as good as a win for Canadian Travis Gerrits.
The native of Milton, Ont., claimed a silver medal in men's aerials at the freestyle skiing world championships Thursday. With that, Gerrits qualified to compete at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
"To me, second place is a victory in my eyes (because) I qualified for the Olympics," Gerrits said during a conference call. "To be honest, I couldn't be happier.
"I did everything I wanted to do today and this whole season. It's awesome."
Gerrits was the lone Canadian to advance to the final after finishing sixth in qualifying Wednesday. On Thursday, Gerrits had to endure three rounds of competition before finally securing the silver medal with a final jump score of 117.73 points.
It marked the first time this season World Cup competitors used the new, longer Olympic-style format.
"It's definitely exhausting and takes a lot of energy out of you," Gerrits said. "There's a lot more strategy involved in the whole day of competition.
"You have to pay attention to every jump, not only your own but everyone else's and what they're doing as well."
New format tricks
Under the new format, athletes aren't permitted to repeat jumps through the three final rounds. With only three combinations of quadruple twisting triple back flips in his arsenal, Gerrits and his coaches had to determine what combination would give him the best chance of a top-three finish.
"What we had before, the night before the athlete knew what jumps he had to do," said national team coach Daniel Murphy. "Now, the night before we discuss three different scenarios of where to put his jumps … it's definitely the coach's job to pay attention very closely during the competition of the score and how everything is going.
"Then the job for Travis is just to stay calm and relaxed and then maybe two jumpers before he's going to go we're going to tell him what trick he's going to do. His job is to have the three jumps ready in his brain and then when we tell him which one we're going to go for, he gets ready for that one."
World Cup champion Qi Guangpu of China finished first with 138.0 points while compatriot Zongyang Jia took third with 99.09.
"They're ranked No. 1 and No. 3 in the world right now in the overall World Cup standings so it was good," Gerrits said. "The tricks I did today are the tricks I'll be doing in Sochi, just not necessarily in the same exact order.
"Going into the Games next year, with a little bit more strategy we're in a good spot."
Montreal's Jean Christophe Andre was the only other Canadian in the men's field, finishing 19th in the qualification round. Former World Cup champion Olivier Rochon of Gatineau, Que., withdrew before qualifying with a groin injury.
China's Xu Mengtao took the women's title with 98.53 points, followed by Veronika Kursunova of Russia and Danielle Scott of Australia. Sabrina Guerin of Laval, Que., was 20th in qualifying.