By Stuart Lieberman | Feb. 17, 2018, 8:13 a.m. (ET)
Jon Lillis celebrates during the men's aerials qualification at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 on Feb. 17, 2018 in PyeongChang, South Korea.

 

Competing with a heavy heart, reigning world champion Jon Lillis soared into the freestyle skiing men’s aerials final at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 on Saturday at Phoenix Snow Park.

The 23-year-old nailed his first round jump, a back full/double full-full for 127.44 points to sail directly into first place and secure one of the six direct qualification spots in Sunday’s final. Lillis, who has finished in the top 10 of the world cup rankings the last three seasons, is competing for both himself and his brother Mikey, an up-and-coming aerialist who passed away in October at the age of 17. Their middle brother, Chris, a world cup winner, did not qualify for the 2018 Olympic team. As the 13th man to jump, Lillis made his Olympic debut in PyeongChang with a 4.425 degree of difficulty after being left off the team in 2014.

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Mac Bohonnon, the only returning U.S. Olympian in men’s aerials, was unable to stick a clean landing in his first jump of 86.28, but rebounded in the second qualification round with a back full/double full/full worth 112.39 points. But it wouldn’t be enough. The fifth-place finisher from Sochi had previously shared special plan for the final if he were to make it— to honor aerials skier Jeret Peterson, who passed away in 2011, with his famous “Hurricane” trick — but he’ll now have to wait another four years.

The third American in the competition, Eric Loughran, was unable to land either of his jumps cleanly, posting scores of 72.40 and 86.28.

Bohonnon and Loughran were 11th and 19th in the second round; they needed to be top six to advance.

Stuart Lieberman covered Paralympic sports for three years at the International Paralympic Committee, including at the London 2012 and Sochi 2014 Games. He is a freelance contributor toTeamUSA.orgon behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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