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He was an outside hope for a medal, but Canada’s Travis Gerrits couldn’t keep up with an amazing Belarus, some steady Chinese and a surprising Australian in the men’s aerials Monday night.
Gerrits, 22, made it to the semi-finals in the competition but failed to advance to the medal round and finished seventh overall. He’d fallen on his first jump of the evening in early qualifying, but recovered enough to get to the semis.
The winner, Anton Kushnir of Belarus, showed Gerrits just how far he needs to go in order to make the podium. Kushnir landed the only “quint” of the evening, a soaring jump that involved three flips and five twists. He scored 134.5 points on the jump, that drew roars from the crowd. Australia’s David Morris, who said he was happy just to make the final rounds, took silver with a jump that earned 110.4 points and China’s Zongyang Jia got bronze with a score of 95.06. Jia was one of two Chinese athletes to make the medal round, an indication of how seriously the country takes the sport. His compatriot Guangpu Qi finished fourth.
“I haven’t seen a jump that amazing in a long time,” Gerrits said after watching the gold medal performance. “I’d like to do that in four years to be honest.”
While he was thrilled to be at his first Olympics, Gerrits added that he wasn’t happy with his performance. “To be honest I am quite disappointed in not making the [medal round] this evening. It was definitely my ultimate goal to bring a medal back home to Canada,” he said.
His parents, Heather and Rob, and younger brother, Tyler, were there to watch, gripping a fence railing every time he jumped and waving a Canadian flag signed by dozens of fans including former astronaut Chris Hadfield. “We’re a family, we’re a team,” said Ms. Gerrits. “It’s just amazing that he’s at the Olympics. This is his dream come true.”
They are truly a team. The Gerrits built a small ramp in their backyard in Milton, Ont., out of picnic tables and hay bales so that Travis and Tyler could practice jumping as boys. Tyler took up aerials too but gave it up and now travels with his brother to events for support. Ms. Gerrits, who is a freestyle coach and judge, has also become something of a mom to other athletes on the aerials circuit, once bringing Morris home to Milton when he needed a place to stay between competitions and offering a helping hand to the Chinese as well.
Ms. Gerrits too marveled at Kushnir’s performance Monday, saying that her son is only just learning the “quint”. “It’s risk and reward,” she said of Kushnir’s stunning leap. “It was a great jump and he nailed it. It was a quint with a high degree of difficulty. Good on him.”
As for her son’s miscue in the early rounds, Ms. Gerrits shrugged and said: “It’s aerials. It’s three seconds in the air and then he has to land it. We are super stoked that he was here and that he competed.”
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