This past summer has proven to be an incredibly productive season of training for the NYSEF freestyle squad. Athletes from near and far, young and old, trained at the aerial pool at the Olympic Jumping Complex both to learn and qualify new tricks and to perfect old ones. Athletes ranged from development juniors to national level athletes, and collectively they’ve invested tens of thousands of hours into their training. The goal? To execute their new tricks once the snow flies. But what happens when you don’t want to wait all the way until winter?
The good news: there is another aerial training facility just 15 minutes north of Quebec City: Acrobatx – Centre Acrobatique Yves LaRoche. This facility hosted a summer Big Air and Aerial competition from August 26-28, featuring over 150 athletes from five different countries. Two of our top NYSEF Freeride athletes, Brian Gardiner and Gavin Fritz, were up for the challenge, and traveled to Canada to take on the world’s finest.
August 26th: Training Day 1. Both Brian and Gavin were stoked on the shape of the jump, and on what they were able to accomplish. Brian and Gavin went straight to work on all of their double cork and double flipping variations that both of them “had in the bag.” Gavin even pulled out a couple triple flatspin 1260’s, and Brian nailed a few triple cork 1080, 1260, and 1620’s. Impressive!
August 27th: Today brought more training, followed by the qualification round. Out of the 30+ athletes in the professional division, only the top 14 moved on to the finals, scheduled to be held later that night under the lights. Both Brian and Gavin qualified for the finals in 3rd and 7th place respectively. The top 14 athletes were met in the final round by two pre-qualified athletes: JF Houle (freeskiing legend), and Emile Bergeron (local professional freeskier). The competition in finals was a bracketed head-to-head format.
Brian Gardiner advanced out of the first round performing a near perfect double cork 1260, true tailgrab. Gavin Fritz also advanced out of his first round buy sending a triple flatspin 1260. In round 2, Gavin went for the triple again but landed a little under rotated. His opponent stomped a near perfect double bio 900, high safety grab, which ultimately bumped Gavin out. Brian was put into his next bracket against Freeskiing legend and X-Games gold medalist, JF Houle. Brian was up first and pulled out a flawless triple cork 1260, safety grab. JF Houle answered back with a stomped, switch double cork 1620, true tail grab. The judges took several minutes to deliberate, but ultimately advanced JF Houle to the next round.
Sure. Brian and Gavin both wished that they had made it further in the finals, but they both showed impeccable sportsmanship and made a statement they were here to try and win. Throughout the event the announcer was saying, “You’re going to have to bring your ‘A’ game in order to beat the Americans!” referring to both Brian and Gavin (the only two Americans in the finals). The lasting memories for Brian and Gavin will be making international friendships, participating in an awesome event under the lights with some of the world’s most talented athletes, and being recognized by athletes, judges, officials, and spectators as some of the top American freeski talent.
As the coach of these ambitious young athletes, what resonated with me the most was Brian telling me when he was in the starting gate with JF Houle, he mentioned to JF: “It is such an honor to be competing alongside of you.”