U.S. aerialists post best World Championships since 1999

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The U.S. aerials team won multiple medals at the World Freestyle Skiing Championships for the first time since 1999 on Thursday.

Kiley McKinnon and Alex Bowen won women’s and men’s silvers, respectively, in Kreischberg, Austria. Neither McKinnon, 19, nor Bowen, 22, were on the U.S. Olympic team in Sochi.

McKinnon, who came into Worlds second in the World Cup standings, scored 88.12 in her final jump. Australian Laura Peel beat her by .35 for gold after finishing seventh in Sochi.

The 2013 World champion and Sochi silver medalist, Xu Mengtao of China, won bronze, ahead of two-time U.S. Olympian Ashley Caldwell. Olympic champion Alla Tsuper of Belarus is reportedly on maternity leave.

In the men’s final, Bowen won a surprise silver medal. Bowen, 22, had never finished better than 14th in a World Cup competition until last week, when he was sixth in Park City, Utah.

But Bowen tallied 121.27 in his last jump under the lights in Kreischberg, a distant 18.23 points behind Chinese gold medalist Qi Guangpu but 1.36 ahead of the next-best aerialist, Belarus’ Maxim Gustik.

Qi won his second straight World title after placing fourth at the Sochi Olympics. The Olympic champion, Belarus’ Anton Kushnir, is reportedly sitting out this season due to injury.

The last time U.S. aerialists won multiple medals at a single Olympics or World Championships was 1999, when Eric Bergoust followed his 1998 Olympic gold with a World title and Joe Pack won bronze, three years before his Olympic silver. Nikki Stone won women’s bronze one year after her Olympic gold medal, too.

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