Fans of high-flying freestyle skiing will get their fix when the men's aerials takes place on Day 10 at the 2014 Olympic Games.
The world's top aerial performers are set to hit the slopes on Monday, beginning with two qualification rounds which start at 8:45 a.m. ET. There's a change to the way the final will go this year compared to what we saw four years ago in Vancouver, however.
NBCOlympics.com breaks it down:
In Sochi, the top 12 skiers will advance from the qualification round to a three-round final, where the field is successively reduced from 12 to eight and then to four. Athletes take one jump in each final and jumps cannot be repeated.
This new format should certainly make things interesting in the latter stages of the competition, but not everyone is a fan.
After failing to repeat as the gold medalist this year, Australia's Lydia Lassila wasn't shy about voicing her displeasure, as relayed by Skyler Wilder of NBCOlympics.com:
The change in format is brutal. It’s long, it’s drawn out and at the end of the day you have to do your hardest trick, which makes it so mentally difficult. I personally don’t think it’s quite right. I think it can be adjusted a little bit so that you see the best jumps.
It will be interesting to see what the men have to say about the format after they're finished competing on Monday.
With that in mind, here's a look at when and where you can catch the action, along with predictions for who'll finish atop the podium.
When: Monday, Feb. 17, starting at 8:45 a.m. ET
Where: Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, Mountain Cluster
Watch: NBC, starting at 3 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NBCOlympics.com
Gold: Qi Guangpu, China
Every skier must land his jumps to medal, but nobody attempts jumps as difficult as the ones by China's Qi Guangpu, per NBCOlympics.com: "Qi, the reigning world champion, attempts the most difficult trick of anyone—double full-full-double full, which is five flips and three twists—and its high degree of difficulty gives the 23-year-old a chance to reach the podium even if he slightly bobbles the landing."
Qi won gold at the 2013 World Championships in Voss, Norway, beating out Canada's Travis Gerrits by more than 20 points and teammate Jia Zongyang by over 38 points. He's the favorite to win this event, and he will, provided he lands his extraordinarily difficult jumps on Monday.
Even if Qi fails to earn gold, it will take nothing short of disaster to keep him from a podium finish.
Silver: Travis Gerrits, Canada
As it is for so many elite athletes, Gerrits' road to the top of his sport hasn't been smoothly paved.
After winning the FIS rookie of the year award in 2010-11, the youngster missed out on most of the 2011-12 season with a knee injury.
He then returned stronger than ever in 2013, earning a silver medal behind Qi at the World Championships, after which he elatedly spoke to the media, as relayed by The Canadian Press, via CBC Sports: "I'm kind of on top of the world. I couldn't be happier. To come back from my injury last season and to stomp my jumps here, it's just awesome."
Incredibly (and surprisingly), Gerrits is the only Canadian man competing in this event, which has inspired him to share a video with his fans:
He'll need to be on point with his jumps—especially in the three final rounds—to finish on the podium.
That said, Gerrits has performed well under similar conditions, and he's poised to become the first Canadian to medal in this event in 20 years.
Bronze: Liu Zhongqing, China
Liu Zhongqing is the only man to have won two gold medals on the current World Cup schedule, which spans five events. His most recent victory came in mid-January in Canada.
He won bronze in this event at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, as well, which he keeps in a drawer in his apartment, per his NBCOlympics.com profile page.
The only reason to bet against Liu in this event is the veteran's tendency to either be at the top of his class or at the bottom, as illustrated by a couple of poor finishes during World Cup events (12th place and 25th place).
Though Liu doesn't possess the arsenal of technically difficult jumps Qi features, he possesses a penchant for shining brightly on the world's biggest stages.
Additionally, Liu (28) is an elder member of the Chinese contingency, and his experience will be a boon not only to himself, but also to his teammates.
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