The Lowell Whiteman School graduate Ryan St. Onge performs in front of a packed house at the Cypress Mountain Olympic freestyle venue Monday evening in British Columbia. St. Onge qualified second for the men’s aerials medal event scheduled for Thursday night.

Photo by John F. Russell

The Lowell Whiteman School graduate Ryan St. Onge performs in front of a packed house at the Cypress Mountain Olympic freestyle venue Monday evening in British Columbia. St. Onge qualified second for the men’s aerials medal event scheduled for Thursday night.

St. Onge soars into 2nd in aerials qualifier at Olympics

Whiteman grad qualifies high for Thursday’s aerials event

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Ryan St. Onge waits for his turn on the jumps Monday evening during the qualifying round for the men's freestyle aerials at the Cypress Mountain Olympic freestyle venue.

— Ryan St. Onge is hoping history repeats itself.

A 2001 graduate of The Lowell Whiteman School, St. Onge has been reminded all week about the 2009 World Champ­ion­ships in Japan. It was there that St. Onge struggled throughout training and barely qualified for the finals before winning the whole thing.

In Vancou­ver, British Columbia for the 2010 Winter Olympics, St. Onge struggled at first during practice rounds but steadily improved leading up to Monday’s qualifying round.

He certainly didn’t have to sweat it out this time.

St. Onge qualified in second Monday at Cypress Mountain, just a spot behind China’s Jia Zongyang. St. Onge’s score of 240.67 was fewer than two points back.

Fellow American Jeret “Speedy” Peterson qualified fifth.

“I’m a little scared,” St. Onge joked about qualifying so high. “It’s different now.”

For St. Onge, however, everything he’s done this year has built toward the Olympics. He came into the event ranked No. 28 in World Cup standings.

Those on the outside might have worried. St. Onge didn’t register a podium this season.

But St. Onge — who is from Winter Park — said it’s all been part of the plan, a plan that could put him on the podium Thursday.

At the 2006 games, where St. Onge finished 16th, he said he focused too much on the results portion. He won the first World Cup that year and started off the season hot. But as the Olympics approached, St. Onge began to struggle.

So with four years of maturity and experience in his pocket, the analytical St. Onge took an analytical approach to this season.

Results didn’t matter. Po­­diums didn’t, either.

“I wasn’t about consistency,” St. Onge said about his outlook leading up to the 2006 games. “I wasn’t about building up. I wasn’t about building to a peak. I was just about going out there and performing. That’s completely different for me this year. It’s all about the jumps. It’s all about the training and trying to get the job done when it counts.”

America’s other two competitors, Matthew DePeters and Scotty Bahrke, finished 17th and 23rd, respectively, Monday.

There may, however, not have been a skier who had a better time than DePeters. After stomping both of his tricks, the Buffalo, N.Y., native threw his hands in the air.

“The past two weeks here, I haven’t had more fun in my life,” DePeters said. “Just the whole experience. I came out (Monday night) and put some jumps down. I’m just so happy now.”

But the real story will be whether St. Onge and Peterson can get on the podium Thursday. The finals start at 7 p.m. Mountain Standard Time.

Peterson said if conditions are like they were Monday, he’ll certainly do his famed Hurricane — a three-flip, five-twist maneuver that carries the highest degree of difficulty in the world.

“I plan on throwing it,” Peterson said. “I won’t make that decision until that day. We’ll see how the wind is and if it’s raining. This place, you never know.”

For St. Onge, he’ll continue with what he’s been doing all season. He’ll focus on his takeoffs and just the jumps.

If, and when, he does that, the results will take care of themselves.

“We’ll see. We’ll see,” St. Onge said when asked if he can make the podium. “I’ve never had a problem before when I’ve did my best jumps. I haven’t had to worry about doing more.”

— To reach Luke Graham call 871-4229, or e-mail lgraham@steamboatpilot.com 

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