Aaron Blunck performs a trick during the Men's Freestyle Skiing Freeski Halfpipe Qualification at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on Feb. 17, 2022 in Zhangjiakou, China.
When he needed to, American Aaron Blunck was able to summon “the beast” on Thursday.
Blunck, a two-time world champion, recovered from a fall in his initial run and turned in the top performance of the day in the Olympic men’s halfpipe skiing qualifying round at Genting Snow Park northwest of Beijing.
The 25-year-old from Crested Butte, Colorado, led a U.S. assault on the halfpipe as all four American men qualified for the final, while earlier in the day three of the four U.S. women advanced. The women’s finals are set for Friday, with the men following on Saturday.
“Oh, man, that first run,” Blunck said. “I was feeling actually so good, training was going so well, and there was no doubt in my mind for the first run.
“But that’s not how it went at all, and then on top, I am honest, I was shaking, I was so nervous.”
Blunck got past the jitters and nailed his second with a score of 92.00.
“Once I dropped in, I just remembered that it’s just skiing,” Blunck said. “I just tried to smile and just remember like, ‘It’s just skiing, dude. Just go skiing. Just have some fun.’
“Super stoked it worked out. I just had to get a little nervous and get those fun nerves out and have to go serious mode on it. Game-time mode, baby. Turn the beast on.”
He was hardly alone among Americans in his standout performance.
In the men’s event, Blunck was followed by Birk Irving (89.75), David Wise (89.00) and Alex Ferreira (84.25), who finished third, fourth and seventh, respectively. Wise is the two-time defending Olympic champion, while Ferreira is coming off a silver medal in 2018.