PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) - Oleksandr Abramenko pulled off one of the best jumps of his life to win the aerials competition in the freestyle skiing on Sunday and become the first Ukrainian man to collect a Winter Olympic gold medal.
China’s Jia Zongyang took home the silver medal, while Olympic Athlete from Russia Ilia Burov secured the bronze.
Abramenko said he had tried his winning jump, a back full-full-double full, only 15 times, adding: “This was one of the best jumps of my life.”
The final consisted of three rounds, with the three lowest-scoring athletes being eliminated at each stage. The highest score from the final round won gold.
Once the field was reduced to the final six, the tension was palpable as each athlete took their final jump.
Abramenko raised the bar, scoring 128.51 to lead going into the final three jumps.
He still led as Jia took to the hill on the last jump of the final. The Sochi bronze medalist landed his jump but could not usurp the Ukrainian, scoring 128.05 to take silver.
The result meant Belarus did not have a man on the aerials podium for the first time since its Olympic debut in 1994.
The Belarusian gold medalist from Sochi, Anton Kusnir, failed to progress from qualification, while Australia’s David Morris, the silver medalist from four years ago, went out in the first round of the final.
The sole survivor from the podium in Sochi was Jia but he was left disappointed not to claim China’s first aerials gold since 2006.
Abramenko said he was surprised by his winning performance.
“I am feeling unbelievable,” he told reporters. “I hoped to take home one medal today but this one, the gold? It makes me so happy.”
While he was talking to reporters, Abramenko’s mobile phone rang constantly with friends and family wanting to speak to the new Olympic champion.
“I have never had so many calls,” said Abramenko. “There are just so many, I don’t know what to do.”
Editing by Clare Fallon