Mac Bohonnon, Kiley McKinnon, Ashley Caldwell

U.S. aerialists, elementary school classmates, sweep World Cup titles

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Mac Bohonnon and Kiley McKinnon, who once shared a first-grade classroom, now share the title of World Cup aerials champion.

The freestyle skiers clinched the crystal globes in Minsk, Belarus, last weekend.

The last time a U.S. aerialist claimed a World Cup season title was the late Olympic silver medalist Jeret “Speedy” Peterson in 2005.

The last time U.S. aerialists claimed both men’s and women’s titles was 1995, when World champion Trace Worthington and 1998 Olympic champion Nikki Stone swept.

Bohonnon and McKinnon shared not only Island Avenue Elementary School in Madison, Conn., growing up but also the same feeling of surprise for capturing the crowns last weekend.

“If we had this conversation in November or December, I definitely would not have told you that I thought this was possible,” Bohonnon said.

“I really wasn’t expecting this,” McKinnon said.

Start with Bohonnon, who is 19. He was an upstart qualifier for the 2014 U.S. Olympic team and finished an impressive fifth in Sochi.

Back in October 2011, a U.S. development coach sat Bohonnon down and told him to quit aerials. He hadn’t adjusted well to a growth spurt in this high-flying, flipping and twisting sport and perhaps should return to moguls, which he had grown up doing.

“It was devastating,” Bohonnon said in a phone interview Tuesday. “I thought then and there my aerials career was over.”

Shortly thereafter, 1998 U.S. Olympic champion Eric Bergoust started coaching him and, Bohonnon said, saved his career.

Last season, Bohonnon earned an Olympic spot with his first World Cup podium finish on Jan. 14 in Val St. Come, Canada. The U.S. actually only sent one men’s aerialist to Sochi, due in part to the addition of ski halfpipe and slopestyle, limiting the amount of total freestyle skiers that could be sent to the Olympics.

That meant Dylan Ferguson, the top U.S. men’s aerialist in the 2012, 2013 and 2014 World Cup standings, but who did not make a podium that season, was left out. Ferguson subsequently retired.

“We should have had two [men’s Olympic] spots,” Bohonnon said. “I never doubted myself for a second for why I was there. I was the only guy with a podium that year. … I think this year kind of validates that whole situation, the whole process. I know a lot of people had doubts. I kind of showed up out of nowhere.”

McKinnon also competed in Val St. Come, where she dislocated an elbow to end any hope of joining her first-grade classmate Bohonnon in Sochi.

McKinnon, also 19, said she delayed a transport to a local hospital that day so she could watch the men’s competition. She saw Bohonnon finish second and earn his Olympic berth.

“I was leaving for the hospital, but Mac was taking his final jump,” she said. “I saw him get the second place and immediately left after that.”

This season, Bohonnon and McKinnon both benefited from Chinese stars missing the final two of seven World Cup competitions.

Qi Guangpu, who won the men’s World Championship on Jan. 15, and Xu Mengtao, the Sochi women’s silver medalist, swept the season’s first two World Cups in Beijing, Dec. 20-21.

China sent a B team to the final two World Cups in Moscow and Minsk the last two weekends.

Plus, both 2014 Olympic champions from Belarus, veterans Anton Kushnir and Alla Tsuper, took this season off.

Bohonnon and McKinnon wish they could have competed against the star Chinese and Belarusians all season but felt the absences didn’t diminish their feats.

Bohonnon said he proved himself to be competitive against them last season, finishing second in Val St. Come and fifth at the Olympics. He also beat Qi at a World Cup in Lake Placid, N.Y., on Jan. 30.

“Not having them, it’s kind of easy to say it could’ve been different with them here, but I kind of validated it to them a month ago in Lake Placid,” he said.

McKinnon had three second-place finishes this season, plus a Worlds silver, but is still searching for her first World Cup victory.

“This is the generation I was part of in aerials,” McKinnon said of the athletes whom she did defeat. “It would’ve been awesome to compete against them [the Chinese and Belarusians] more, but I think I’m just really happy that I was able to compete with the athletes who are here.”

Bohonnon and McKinnon also benefited from coming up through the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association’s Elite Aerial Development Program, which started in 2008.

The program’s first member, 2010 and 2014 Olympian Ashley Caldwell, roomed with McKinnon this entire season and won the final World Cup to secure second place in the standings.

Bohonnon joined the program after the Vancouver 2010 Olympics and then recruited McKinnon via Facebook Messenger.

“I knew Kylie was a good gymnast and a good skier; it was a no-brainer,” Bohonnon said (Chinese are so good at aerials because they often have a gymnastics background). “Here we are, four years later, both with crystal globes.”

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Sky Brown, 11-year-old Olympic skateboard hopeful, suffers serious injuries in fall

Sky Brown Skateboard Fall
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Sky Brown, an 11-year-old British Olympic skateboarding hopeful, recently suffered her worst fall, requiring surgery, she said in a video posted from a hospital bed.

Brown suffered skull fractures and broke her left wrist and hand and was at first unresponsive upon arrival to a hospital, according to the BBC, which quoted her father.

Video of the fall from a skateboarding ramp was posted on her social media. She appeared to be wearing a helmet in the video.

“I don’t usually post my falls or talk about them because I want people to see the fun in what I do,” Brown said. “But this was my worst fall, and I just want everyone to know that, it’s OK, don’t worry. I’m OK. It’s OK to fall sometimes. I’m just going to get back up and push even harder. I know there’s a lot of things going on in the world right now. I want everyone to know that whatever we do, we’ve just go to do it with love and happiness.”

Brown is the 2019 World bronze medalist in the new Olympic sport’s park discipline.

Later Tuesday, Brown reposted an Instagram post from what appeared to be her father’s account. The caption of that post said Brown fell 15 feet to flat concrete.

“I held her in my arms and she bled helplessly moaning in and out of consciousness waiting for the helicopter to take her to the Hospital,” the caption read. “We spent the night sick and terrified not knowing if Sky was going to make it through the night, as the ICU team tried to get her conscious and kept her alive.

“4 days later Sky sits across from me with her full memory back, smiling, watching TikTok while Eating her favorite bad snacks.”

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Last week the worst thing I could ever ever imagined happened to @skybrown . She fell about 15ft off the side of a vert ramp to flat concrete. I held her in my arms and she bled helplessly moaning in and out of consciousness waiting for the helicopter to take her to the Hospital. We spent the night sick and terrified not knowing if Sky was going to make it through the night, as the ICU team tried to get her conscious and kept her alive. We prayed and begged God to give Sky another chance. Word came back while she was still unconscious, multiple fractures to her skull, a broken left arm, which she broke into pieces because she used it to break her fall, broken right fingers and lacerations to her heart and lungs. 4 days later Sky sits across from me with her full memory back, smiling, watching TikTok while Eating her favorite bad snacks. More importantly her Doctors and the trauma team say it’s a miracle how well she is dealing with the pain and recovering incredibly fast. They said it’s shocking and believe it’s because of her grit, positivity and attitude. Skys brother @oceanbrown has been so brave. He saw his sister fall to the ground lying in a pool of blood and was screaming in tears that night outside of the hospital. He has still not allowed into the hospital to see her. They miss each-other dearly, but no siblings are allowed to enter the hospital because of coronavirus. They’ve been spending hours a day on FaceTime with each other making funny faces to one another in fits of giggles and laughter. Sky promises Ocean daily that she will make a fast recovery so they can be together again. Sky is constantly joking and smiling and it’s hurts my heart to even imagine for a second a world without Sky; extremely thankful that I don’t have to. Thank you to the heroes that are the doctors, nurses and hospital staff that have tirelessly worked on her and helped her get to this point.

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Ted Ligety confirms he’ll ‘finish it off’ at 2022 Olympics

Ted Ligety
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Ted Ligety, a two-time U.S. Olympic Alpine skiing champion, plans to race through the 2022 Beijing Winter Games, looking to break Bode Miller‘s record as the oldest U.S. Olympic Alpine skier in history.

Ligety detailed the plans for the rest of his career in interviews with NBC Sports and SkiRacing.com this spring.

“Two final years and finish it off at the Olympics,” Ligety told Mike Tirico on Lunch Talk Live.

Previously, the 35-year-old had not announced whether he would make a push for a fifth Winter Games. But since he’s planning to race the 2020-21 season, it makes sense to extend it to the Olympic year.

“At this point, I guess I’m shooting for the Olympics,” Ligety said in a SkiRacing.com podcast published last week. “If I was going to go this year, I was going to go the next year. It kind of seems silly to stop the year before the Olympics. So, go through then and then definitely be done. So, 37, I’d definitely be an old guy at the Olympics. Actually, my body’s been feeling better this year than it has in probably the five years prior to this.”

Ligety, a gold medalist in the 2006 Olympic combined and 2014 Olympic giant slalom, would break Miller’s age record. Miller tied for super-G bronze in his fifth and final Olympics in 2014 at age 36. Come 2022, Ligety will be older than any U.S. Olympic male skier in any discipline since ski jumper Peder Falstad at the 1932 Lake Placid Olympics, according to Olympedia.org.

Before last season, Ligety said he would not race much longer if his best result for the year was eighth place, as it was in 2018-19. In 2019-20, he posted fifth- and seventh-place finishes while limiting his schedule to almost exclusively giant slaloms.

“I feel like I’m starting to progress again to the point where I feel like I can start winning races,” he said.

Ligety is trying to return to the top of the sport after a string of significant injuries: a hip labrum tear in 2015, a season-ending ACL tear in 2016 and season-ending surgery for three herniated disks in his back in 2017.

“If my body falls apart and all that, then I guess I’ll revisit things,” he said. “But trying hard to persevere and try to preserve the body in a way that I’m able to push hard through races and not be battling through pain.”

Also on his mind: a 2-year-old son, Jax, and twins on the way.

“Family life is about to get exponentially more hectic,” he said.

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