By Dan Guttenplan
---- — Let there be no question that the nation’s top aerial freestyle skier hails from Amesbury.
Amesbury native Dylan Ferguson, 24, claimed his third consecutive national aerials title at the Spring U.S. Freestyle Championships in Heavenly, Cali., Saturday. He landed a full double full full, earning the highest score he has ever posted in a national championship event.
“I had two really good contest jumps,” Ferguson said. “That might have been the highest score I’ve ever had. It’s good to be No. 1.”
Ferguson has cemented his case as the nation’s top aerial freestyle skier since he was forced to withdraw from the 2010 Olympic Games due to a stomach infection that stemmed from a ruptured appendix. He has not finished any lower than first at the national championships since that time, when he qualified for the Olympic team as the second-ranked American.
Ferguson has also climbed the international rankings, finishing a career-high fourth on the World Cup tour. When he qualified for the last Olympic team, he did not rank in the top 10 internationally.
“I’m jumping better than I was at the last Olympics,” Ferguson said. “The first season I was doing my two competition jumps was 2010. Now, I’ve been competing with those jumps for the last three years. I feel confidence in those, and I’ve done them on ramps and snow. I’m jumping a lot better than I was in the 2010 season.”
Ferguson lives in Park City, Utah, where he trains with the U.S. national aerials team. Unlike the 2010 Games, when he was the youngest American to qualify, he is now an elder statesman on the team.
“Our team is sort of building after the last Olympics,” Ferguson said. “We had a few people stop jumping, so we’re rebuilding the team. These kids are so young, they’re just getting into the sport. We have a lot of people capable of being on a podium.”
Ferguson didn’t climb his first podium at an International event until 2012. Those moments have come more frequent since. For instance, he placed second at this year’s Ukraine World Cup.
“My season on the World Cup tour was alright,” Ferguson said. “I finished fourth, same as last year. I was hoping to be in the top three. I needed one more podium, and it didn’t happen. The tour was a little smaller than the last couple of years. There weren’t too many events, but I had a pretty good season.”
Next year’s World Cup tour will also serve as a qualifier for the 2014 Olympics in Socchi, Russia. In 2010, four Americans qualified for the Vancouver Games, so Ferguson would appear to be in great shape to attend his first Olympics next year.
“Nothing in the past will really matter,” Ferguson said. “I need to do well in those qualifiers to be on the U.S. team. I’m taking it day by day, making the best of every situation. I try to jump my best in every contest and training session. The next Olympics is obviously the big goal. I’ll just take it slow and not get too stressed out.”
The Sprint Nationals served as the last competition of the 2012-13 season for Ferguson. He will spend the spring in Park City, working out in the gym and practicing new jumps on trampolines.
“Come May and June, the water ramping starts again,” Ferguson said. “I’ll be doing new trick and perfecting everything I have at that moment in the season.”