Oleksandr Abramenko secured Ukraine’s first gold medal of PyeongChang 2018 as he soared to freestyle skiing glory in the men’s aerials at Phoenix Park on Sunday 18 February. Completing the podium were Jia Zongyang of China in second and Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR) Ilia Burov in third.
The 2016 FIS Aerials World Cup winner, the 29-year-old Abramenko sealed gold with a Back Full-Full-Double Full that earned him 128.51 points. Performing the same jump and the last of the competition, Jia scored just 0.46 points fewer to add a silver to the bronze he won at Sochi 2014. That outcome will have come as something of a disappointment to the Chinese freestyler, who topped the standings in Final 2 and had his sights set on winning a first aerials gold for his country since Han Xiaopeng at Turin 2006.Getty Images
World champion Jonathon Lillis of the USA missed the cut for the six-man final, having top-scored in the previous day’s qualifying with 127.44 points, while Sochi 2014 silver medallist David Morris of Australia went out in Final 1. Competing in his fourth Olympics, 33-year-old defending Olympic champion Anton Kushnir of Belarus failed to qualify for the finals altogether.
The first Ukrainian male athlete to collect an Olympic Winter Games gold medal, Abramenko said he had tried his winning jump only 15 times previously, adding: “It was one of the best jumps of my life.”
“It’s really unbelievable,” he continued. “I’d hoped to take a medal today, but I won gold. I’m really happy about it. It’s Ukraine’s first medal in freestyle skiing and I’m just so happy. I can’t believe it. I’ve dreamed about this moment since I was young, when I started doing freestyle skiing, and now it’s come true.”
Reflecting on his wait for Jia’s final jump, Abramenko said: “I was so nervous. When I saw the last score by Jia, I realised I had won the gold medal and it was crazy.”
“I’m a bit disappointed, but I did my best and I have to be satisfied with the result,” said Jia. “The other competitors were very strong too.”