If you watched any of the Winter Olympics, you most likely saw Aerial Freestyle Skiing, which can be hard to follow as skiers compete with very complex maneuvers. You can actually learn how to do this safely, not far from home!
Who would have thought that with a little imagination, Winter Olympic aerial ski jumping practice count be done outside, in the middle of summer, just a few hours north at the Olympic Jumping Complex in Lake Placid.
There are currently eight youngsters in training, living nearby and jumping twice a day. Come November, they’ll pack their skis and head out to Park City, Utah, where they’ll apply their newly learned skills.
“So we practice here, they get very comfortable and qualify jumps, and then they can go on the snow,” said John Curran, U.S. Aerials Talent ID Coordinator.
On the ramp at Lake Placid, instead of snow, the dampened plastic surface simulates the real stuff and off they go, crashing into the water below. Air is pumped into the pool to break the surface tension of the water, which lessens that sting on impact.
“It’s a safety factor that they can make mistakes here in the water that if they made mistakes over there on the landing hill would be pretty ugly,” Curran said.
Other potential jumpers travel in from ski teams throughout the northeast – some with their own fan clubs that understand the risks.
“It’s definitely safer than trying on snow first,” said Brian Lynch, an aerialist parent. “Most of these kids have been doing so many repetitions and have the muscle memory down and they have some great coaching, and, you know, by the time they get through numerous jumps here, they’re ready to go on snow.”
These hopeful future Olympians understand the need to err on the safe side.
“It’s the best way to learn,” said Gio Masters of the elite aerial development program. “You get your jumps qualified in the water, then you take them in the snow to compete.”
For Lake Placid, where the January average low temperature is five degrees Fahrenheit, this poolside sport can be inviting – but it does come at a cost.
“It’s a lot of hard work, a lot of dedication by the kids and the parents,” Lynch said. “And it’s just a great facility for them to come up and try to get to the next level.”
And for Giovani, his sites are set.
“Make the national team, wherever, as soon as I can, and go on to the Olympics,” Masters said. “That’s my plan.”