Canada wins bronze in mixed team aerials at Beijing Olympics
Thenault, Fontaine, Irving secure surprise medal after placing 6th at 2021 worlds
Canada won the first-ever bronze medal in mixed team aerials Thursday as the event made its Olympic debut at Beijing 2022.
Marion Thenault, Miha Fontaine and Lewis Irving were the three aerialists on Team Canada who each jumped once in the final to secure a surprise third place. Canada's mixed aerials team placed fifth at the 2019 world championships and sixth in 2021.
The Canadians finished the event with a score of 290.98 behind the gold medal-winning United States (338.34 points) and China (324.22).
After earning bronze, the Canadians were overjoyed, and a little surprised, to find themselves on the podium.
WATCH | Canada surprises with bronze in mixed team aerials:
"It's crazy. I still don't believe it," Thenault said.
"We knew we were capable of doing it, and we did it."
Switzerland placed last in the four-team final with 276.01 points. Only six teams competed in the mixed team event. Belarus and the Russian Olympic Committee did not make it through to the second final.
Team Canada's bronze was a remarkable finish for the young team. Thenault, 21, only began freestyle skiing in 2017 after being recruited by Freestyle Canada — she had previously spent 14 years as a gymnast.
She only became a full-time member of the World Cup team in the 2020-21 season, but landed on a couple of World Cup podiums and finished sixth at the world championships.
'The right sport for me'
Thenault credited her quick rise in the sport to her years in the gym.
"I worked really hard as a gymnast and it developed my approach to sport. I was training like a high-level athlete already, and when I got recruited by RBC Training Ground, they redirected my path to a sport that I had a lot of potential in," she told CBC's Andi Petrillo hours after her team's win.
"Once I discovered aerials I knew it was the right sport for me and I gave everything I had right away."
WATCH | Mixed team aerials final:
She said the team's bronze medal shows "how strong we are."
"Having a medal as a team is just even more cool because you get to share that experience and share the hype and share all the excitement."
Fontaine, 18, the son of Canadian aerials legend Nicolas Fontaine, secured his best World Cup finish only last month, earning sixth place in Deer Valley, Utah.
WATCH | Thenault: 'We showed how strong we are as a team':
And Irving, 26, is the veteran of the squad with a number of World Cup podium finishes under his belt. He placed 24th in men's aerials in 2018 in Pyeongchang.
For Thursday's competition, Fontaine was wearing the gloves his father wore at the 1998 Games in Nagano.
"I'm really happy to wear them and to continue the Fontaine legacy in freestyle skiing," Fontaine said. "And jumping in this event was amazing."
The qualification rounds for women's aerials begin on Sunday, with the final scheduled for Monday, while the men's qualification rounds begin on Tuesday, with the final on Wednesday.