Dylan Ferguson earns silver for Speedy
PARK CITY, Utah -- Temperatures dipped to the low teens Friday, yet it wasn't the chill American aerialists felt at the Freestyle World Cup.
They felt the energy from the late Jeret "Speedy" Peterson, who was being honored at the Deer Valley Resort where he first landed his trademark "Hurricane": three flips and five twists.
Dylan Ferguson, who had never earned a World Cup aerials podium in 29 previous tries, grabbed silver with a career performance in front of the home crowd.
Ferguson was so excited he danced on his skis for several minutes afterward.
"This is awesome," said Ferguson, who had the word "Speedy" on his helmet. "This one's for Speedy. This is how he would have wanted it."
On Wednesday, Deer Valley officials renamed their unique freestyle aerials tow lift "Hurricane" in memory of Peterson, a 2010 Olympic silver medalist who took his own life July 25 at age 29.
U.S. freestyle program director Todd Schirman wasn't worried that the emotions would get to his skiers.
"We dealt with it as a team and family this summer so we could get to this point," Schirman said. "We set it up and took advantage of getting energy from Speedy."
It wasn't just Ferguson. Scotty Bahrke earned a spot in the eight-man second round and finished sixth overall. Allison Lee had a personal best for the women, finishing 10th overall.
"There was something special in the air tonight," Schirman said.
The Americans already were feeling good with a packed venue, competing at home, at the site of the 2002 Winter Olympics.
Ferguson had the spectators cheering for more when he nailed a double full full full to score a 126.70 -- the best score heading into the four-man super final.
"It was great," Ferguson said. "I really just wanted to come into this week and have a good time, put some sweet jumps down, and that's how it went. I am so stoked.
"This is my town (I live here) all my family is here," he continued, "everyone that came out, I appreciate it."
His final jump -- a full full full -- was solid (118.86), just not enough to overtake Jia Zongyang (128.96), who saved a higher-difficulty jump and won gold for the men. Canada's Olivier Rochon (111.78) took bronze.
China swept the women's podium, with Xu Mengtau winning her fourth gold in four events. Cheng Shuang took silver and Kong Fanyu bronze.
"They actually started recruiting three years before the Americans, and it's showing now," Schirman said of the Chinese.
But the U.S. showed it is getting there.
"You can see how many young athletes we have in the semis," Schirman said. "We have three 17-year-olds, an amazing amount of athletes coming up. And to have leaders like Dylan ... is just outstanding when they show up and have career bests."
Ferguson was happy to lead the way.
"I really want to finish out the tour well," he said. "I want to be in the top five by the end of the tour, for sure. I really want to try to be on the podium a bunch more, always have a smile on my face no matter what happens. Positive attitude."
While Peterson didn't hide the fact he battled depression, he was a fan favorite and a mentor to many teammates.
"Every time I rode the lift up here, I tried to think of a funny thing I saw Speedy do in his career, but there is honestly too many," Ferguson said.
"Speedy taught me a lot. He helped me a lot through my career and just jumping in general," he said. "Just watching him do aerials and watching him basically kill the World Cup tour every season really inspired me to be the jumper that I am today."
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press