February 25, 2022

Canada’s Megan Oldham settles for 4th place in women’s freestyle big air at Games

BEIJING –


Canada’s Megan Oldham wanted to push herself in the Olympic debut of women’s freestyle big air by landing a trick she had never done in competition before.


She managed to achieve that goal Tuesday morning at Big Air Shougang. It just wasn’t enough to get on the podium.


“At this point I don’t have any harder tricks so I really did put it all on the line,” Oldham said.


Oldham was in position to challenge for a medal after the first two rounds of the three-round final. The 20-year-old from Parry Sound, Ont., needed to score in the low 90s with her final jump and hope it would place her ahead of the three skiers who followed her.


She knew her fate was sealed when 88.75 flashed on the large video screen.


“I landed the two tricks that I wanted to in finals,” Oldham said. “So as much as fourth place is kind of a tough position to be in, I’m still really happy with my jumps.”


Oldham could only watch from the media interview zone as the medallists gathered in the landing area, the delighted home crowd cheering the every move of champion Eileen Gu of China.


The American-born athlete hit the first 1620 of her career on her last jump and her total score of 188.25 was enough to hold off Tess Ledeux of France (187.50).


Each skier’s best two scores are used for their overall total. Switzerland’s Mathilde Gremaud took bronze (182.50) ahead of Oldham (178.00).


Oldham hit a switch double-cork 1080 — three full spins, two off-axis rotations and a backwards jump or landing — for the first time in competition. She also landed a double-cork 1260.


While consistent with three scores in the mid-to-high 80s, the top three finishers all cracked the 93-point mark at least once.


“I expected people to throw some new tricks that they haven’t tried but I didn’t really think it would be at this level,” she said.


“So it’s super cool to see these girls really throwing it all out on the line and doing their best.”


Olivia Asselin, a 17-year-old from Lac-Beauport, Que., was eighth.


Oldham was the last skier on the start list after posting the top qualification score a day earlier. Asselin, also making her Olympic debut, was 11th in the qualifier to just make the top-12 cutline.


A few hundred spectators were on hand at the venue on a chilly but sunny morning. The facility is on the site of a repurposed steel mill on Beijing’s west side.


Oldham won big air gold at the Winter X Games in 2020 while Asselin was sixth in big air at the 2019 junior world championship.


Elena Gaskell of Vernon, B.C., had to pull out of the competition last weekend due to injury.


Evan McEachran of Oakville, Ont., is the lone Canadian to qualify for Wednesday’s men’s freestyle big air final.


“It’s such a cool sport to watch and there’s so much progression right now,” Oldham said. “So I really think it’s going to build for the future and it’s going to be an event that people really want to watch.”


This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 8, 2022.

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