KRASNAYA POLYANA, RUS, 16 Feb 2013 - The world's best aerialists will soar on Sunday evening in the third and final event held under the lights at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.
Twelve ladies and 12 men are scheduled to begin the final at 19:30 and 19:50 respectively. The top four in each gender will be awarded a second jump to determine the medallists. Qualifications for the final will be held earlier in the day.
Looking up from the finish area, the aerials hill is tucked in nicely between the adjacent halfpipe to the left and moguls hill to the right.
This FIS World Cup event is the fifth of seven stops on this season's tour and also an important tune-up for next month's world championships in Voss, Norway.
China comes to this World Cup and Sochi 2014 test event with three aerialists among the top seven in the World Cup standings.
Jia Zongyang (CHN) tops the rankings, having won three of five competitions this season, including on consecutive days in Lake Placid, New York, on 18 and 19 January. However, the 21-year-old World Cup leader, who will turn 22 on 1 March, faltered at the last event in Deer Valley on 1 February, finishing fourth.
Jia's teammates Qi Guangpu and Zhou Hang are third and seventh in the World Cup standings.
Travis Gerrits (CAN) is a distant second to the Chinese aerialist but comes to Krasnaya Polyana with the confidence of a second-place result in Deer Valley. The 21-year-old Canadian acrobat was also second on home snow in Val Saint Come in January.
Belarus continues to be a force in aerials. Dmitri DASHINKI is the old man of the sport and still accumulating medals at age 35. The two-time Olympic medallist from 1998 and 2006 has grabbed two medals this season, winning in Val Saint Come and finishing second in Lake Placid. Dashinski, a four-time Olympian, was the first competitor to win two Olympic medals in freestyle aerials.
Maxim Gustik gives Belarus a formidable 1-2 combination. The 24-year-old aerialist won his first career World Cup event earlier this month in Deer Valley.
David Morris (AUS) has had one podium this season, in Lake Placid, and could challenge for medals in Krasnaya Polyana.
Xu Mengtao (CHN) comes to this event with a commanding lead in the aerials and overall World Cup freestyle standings. The 22-year-old has been in stellar form this season, winning four of five World Cup events. At the other event in Lake Placid, she was third. In 32 career World Cup starts, Xu has 13 victories and 23 podiums.
Xu's teammates Yang Yu and Zhang Xin are third and fourth in the standings. Yang won the Lake Placid event where Xu was third, giving the Chinese five triumphs in five World Cup competitions this season.
Lydia Lassila (AUS) will seek to defend her Vancouver 2010 Olympic gold medal one year from now at this venue. She is second in the World Cup standings, having finished second three times from five events this season. The 31-year-old freestyle skier has competed at three Olympic Games and is among the most experienced ladies on tour. LASSILA made her tour debut in 2001 and has claimed 11 wins and 32 podiums to date.
Lassila'S teammates Danielle Scott and Laura Peel are fifth and sixth in the standings, giving Australia substantial depth in the event.
Veteran Emily Cook (USA) began jumping on tour in 1997 and at age 33 is still going strong. She arrives in Russia following a win and a second-place result at Nor-Am events in Park City last week. The two-time Olympian also has one World Cup podium this season, finishing third at Lake Placid on 19 January.