By Dan Guttenplan
---- — Amesbury freestyle skier Dylan Ferguson all but assured himself of a spot on the 2014 United States Olympic team yesterday in what he described as an “epic” competition in Beijing, China.
Ferguson placed fifth at the aerials World Cup inside the famed Bird’s Nest stadium, the site of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games opening ceremonies. Ferguson was the top American finisher, positioning himself in the top spot among his fellow aerial skiers vying for at least two spots on the Olympic team.
“I am stoked with how (it) went,” Ferguson told USA Skiing. “I put down some epic jumps and was just having a blast. The rest of my competitors killed it and (it) was amazing for the sport of aerials. My coaches are happy with the result and we go to (Deer Valley) next so you know I am going to have fun jumping there.”
The next Olympic qualifier will be in Deer Valley, Utah, Jan. 10 for the 2014 Visa Freestyle International World Cup.
Ferguson pleased the Beijing crowd with a huge double full, full, full for his final jump, earning a score of 117.65.
In other local Olympic news, Seabrook snowboarder Scotty Lago fell further off pace of qualifying for the United States Olympic snowboarding team with a 10th-place finish at the Grand Prix pipe Saturday at Copper, Colo.
Lago, who won a bronze medal in the halfpipe in the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, British Columbia, drew the praise of many of his competitors, but fell short in his attempt to draw high scores from the judges. One of the more skilled, technical riders in the world was punished for only completing four hits per halfpipe, as opposed to his competitors, who completed five hits each. Lago simply ran out of space on each run due to his explosive, high jumps.
“I was really excited with the run that I landed,” Lago said. “I went out and landed the run I wanted to land — how I wanted to land it. I came down and was super pumped, and then I saw the score, and I was pretty disappointed. The judges didn’t see it how I saw it, I guess.”
Lago placed fifth among Americans, leaving him with three qualifiers remaining to secure a berth to his second Games in a row. Lago must earn a spot on the podum (top three) in two of the final three competitions to earn a trip to Sochi, Russia.
“The U.S. coaches were upset with my score, and they went down and talked to the judges,” Lago said. “You can’t protest or anything like that. It still doesn’t make sense because everyone else got five hits, and I got four. I just couldn’t fit it in the halfpipe. I was going too big, but I shouldn’t be deducted for going bigger than anyone else.”
The Americans swept the top three places at the Grand Prix, with Taylor Gold winning gold, Greg Bretz taking silver and Ben Ferguson earning bronze. In terms of the standing on the United States Olympic team, through two events, Bretz ranks first with a first and a second; Gold ranks second with a third and a first; and Shaun White ranks third with a second-place finish.
Lago does not plan to alter his routine in the final three competitions in an attempt to complete five hits.
“I’m going to stick with the plan,” Lago said. “It always changes. At practice, you might get five, but in competition, you’re going a lot farther and higher. A lot of times, you come up short.”