A week after the biggest day of his competitive life, Alex Bowen was still basking in the glow of his accomplishment.
The 22-year-old from Springville, New York, turned heads in Kreischberg, Austria, on Jan. 15 when he used a new trick to win a silver medal in men’s aerials at the FIS Freestyle Ski & Snowboard World Championships. The U.S. Freestyle Ski Team member landed a triple flip he had never completed en route to a career-best 121.27 points and a spot on the podium.
Bowen’s score, which came thanks in large part to him landing a double, full, full, full for the first time on snow, was second only to China’s Guangpu Qi’s 139.5 points. The magnitude of what he accomplished sank in almost immediately.
“Winning a silver at worlds sank in when I was walking to the podium stage to be awarded my medal,” said Bowen, who was competing in his first world championships. “The first people I saw were my teammates, coaches and our staff, and they were all cheering. Jumping alongside my teammates and feeling like a team has been the best part of this year.”
Bowen’s silver was the first aerials medal for the United States since Ryan St. Onge won gold in 2009. This year’s world championships was a big event for the U.S. team, as Kiley McKinnon also won a silver for the women’s team.
McKinnon’s performance impressed Bowen a great deal and is further evidence that the U.S. aerials team could be a force to be reckoned with in the coming months and years.
“Kiley has been kicking butt and on the podium at every event,” he said. “The U.S. freestyle aerials team has been looking great all year. Because U.S. aerials team did so well in Deer Valley, the event was covered on NBC. This means a lot for team, because mogul skiing usually has more press than aerials.”
|Alex Bowen celebrating second place during the FIS Freestyle Ski World Championships men's aerials on Jan. 15, 2015 in Kreischberg, Austria.|
Bowen’s medal highlights a natural progression up the ranks that he has continued in recent years. After his father taught him how to ski at the age of 3, Bowen was hooked for life.
He joined the freestyle team at Buffalo Ski Club and started in aerials at age 13. Bowen developed and honed his skills under the tutelage of legendary coach Mark Depeters before moving on to Lake Placid, New York, to learn flips from coach Wes Preston.
Bowen, who now trains at the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association’s Center of Excellence in Park City, Utah, notched a total of four top-20 finishes in world cup events in 2012 and 2013 and earned a silver medal at the 2013 national championships. He followed that with a top-20 finish last year after returning from a concussion that kept him out for most of 2014 and already has three top-10s in world cup events this season.
Bowen has both specific and general goals for 2015.
“My seasonal goal is to end up ranked top 10 in the world, and I still have four more competitions to make that happen,” he said. “I want to keep practicing my full-double full-full (quad twisting triple flip) and perform that trick as well as I did this summer. My main plan for the rest of the year is to keep having fun with my teammates.”
Aerials coach Todd Ossian has been thrilled by Bowen’s recent performances.
“It’s amazing, and I’m really proud of him,” said Ossian, a former U.S. aerials team member. “He’s been working extremely hard and training really well, and I felt like he was going to break out this season somewhere. It’s just really special that it happened at world championships.
“I expect him to continue to jump extremely well the rest of the season.”
Ossian said Bowen’s work ethic is one of the budding star’s strengths.
“He’s extremely hard-working, very coachable and gets along with all of his teammates really well,” Ossian said. “He’s a really quiet guy until you get to know him, and he can just put his head down and work really hard. He’s really fun to work with.”
Bowen said the coolest part about this year has been the fact that his grandfather was able to see him on television.
“While heading to Austria, my grandpa Mel saw me on television for the first time,” Bowen said. “Grandpa Mel only has three channels, so when NBC recapped the Deer Valley World Cup, my mom phoned him to tune in. He’s been telling me for years there is skiing on TV (alpine skiing), and he keeps watching the race just in case I pop up.”
And “pop up” he has. Thanks to his performance in Austria, the whole skiing world has taken note of a new major player on the scene.
Neal Reid is a freelance writer based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, who has been published for more than 20 years in outlets including USA Today and Newsday. Reid is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.