Matt Chojnacki had tried the world's most difficult freestyle maneuver just once, just to say he'd done it. Saturday, after watching the competition complete a near-perfect jump, he chose to do it again. He went for broke and won the $5,000 first prize in the Sprint Ultimate AirWave competition.
Twelve of the best men and women aerialists competed in the event at the Winter Sports Park before a packed audience. In head-to-head competition, Chojnacki, who now lives in Park City, went against Britt Swartley of Blue Bell, Pa.Swartley jumped first, a full-double-full-full, and hit it perfectly. What was left was for Chojnacki to try and match the perfect jump or try something more difficult. He chose what is considered the most difficult maneuver in aerial freestyle - 4-flips-4-twists or a quadruple-twisting-somersault.
"I was forced to do a trick I'd only done once before and then just to say I'd done it. I'd hit a triple somersault on the jump before, so I just needed to go higher on this one and turn faster," he said after climbing from the pool.
Swartley scored a 127.71, which is about as high as a jumper can score, but difficulty and execution scored a 136.51 for Chojnacki.
The event was held in the summer training splash or swimming pool for freestyle but with one little addition: A special lift was added to one of the larger jumps. What it did was pitch the jumpers up higher, thus giving them more hang time to do their maneuvers.
The lip was installed Thursday, and jumpers only had a few opportunities to practice.
Chojnacki said it was obvious right from liftoff that this was something special. It was also different. Eric Bergoust, a gold medalist in the Olympics in February, missed a jump earlier in the day, landed on his face and was injured. He did not compete in Saturday's event.
"I was working on a new technique of twisting. We've been jumping with our arms swinging and I'm trying to reduce the amount of motion," he said. "I want to do something that's never been done before, I want to do five twists. It's turning out to be a big challenge; it also involves some risk."
In the finals of the women's event, Tracy Evans of Hornell, N.Y., who retired from the team after the Olympics, faced Nikki Stone of Park City and the reigning gold medalist.
Stone was off a little on her maneuver, while Evans, who said she started training for this only two weeks ago, hit her double-twisting-double-somersault perfectly. It is, she said, the most difficult maneuver in the women's ranks. She scored a 99.18 to a 95.19 for Stone.
"Any time you can beat Nikki, you've got to feel good. She's difficult to beat. I felt good on the jump, though. I guess you could say now I won what might be my last competition," she added.
The event also included team competition and an exhibition event.