Buoyed by the momentum from a banner 2018 season, 28-year-old Olivier Rochon of Gatineau, Quebec carried the weight of a nation on his shoulders to a respectable fifth place finish in the men’s aerials event, posting one of the highest personal scores of his athletic career along the way.
In a pressure-packed finals format, the field of 12 skiers would have just one chance to land a jump in each round, with the top nine advancing to the second final and the top six battling it out for the medals in the super final.
Rochon would put down clutch, gutsy performances in the first two rounds, landing two different variations of a quadruple twisting, triple back flip, achieving scores of 125.67 and 128.05, respectively, to position himself in medal contention in the super final.
Rochon’s final jump, a lay-triple-full-full, had a degree of difficulty of 4.65, the second highest of any competitor in the super final. Unable to finish his three twists on the second back flip quick enough, Rochon fell behind in the jump sequence, his back touching down against the snow upon landing. He would score 98.11 and finish in 5th position.
“All the work we did in the past four years was for this moment,” commented Rochon. “I’m proud of all the progression and hard work I put in to make it here. Unfortunately, I didn’t land my final jump, but that’s ok, it’s an extremely difficult jump and one I’ve been working on for a long time. I performed it when I wanted to – at the super final of the Olympic Games. I went all out: I can only be proud of my performance tonight.”
Rochon’s final jump was a tribute to former World Champion aerialist Warren Shouldice of Canada, the only athlete in the world to have successfully performed that jump in competition.
With his performance tonight, Rochon recorded the best finish for Canada in a men’s aerials Olympic event in 16 years, since Jeff Bean’s fourth place finish at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. It’s been nearly 25 years since Canada won an Olympic medal in men’s aerials, the last ones recorded by Philippe LaRoche and Lloyd Langlois at the 1994 Lillehammer Games.
Competing in his fourth Olympic Games, Oleksandr Abramenko of Ukraine would capture the Olympic gold medal, the first-ever individual winter Olympic medal won by an athlete from Ukraine, with a score of 128.51. Zongyang Jia of China won the silver medal with a score of 128.05 and the bronze medal went to the Olympic Athlete from Russia Ilia Burov, with a score of 122.17. This would be the first men’s Olympic aerials podium that the country of Belarus would miss since 1994.
Reigning World Champion Jonathon Lillis of the United States, Olympic silver medallist David Morris of Australia and former World Champion Qi Guangpu of China were unable to advance to the super final. Reigning Olympic Champion Anton Kushnir from Belarus failed to qualify for the finals.
Rochon will return to Canada following the Games to compete with his teammates in the National Championships at Apex Mountain Resort in Penticton, BC in March.
Next Olympic Events:
- Women’s Halfpipe Qualifications, February 18, 8 PM ET
- Women’s Halfpipe Finals, February 19, 8:30 PM ET
- Men’s Halfpipe Qualifications, February 19 11 PM ET
- Men’s Halfpipe Finals, February 21 9:30 PM ET