Pyeongchang, South Korea • It’s the ultimate ace in the hole. When no one else dares to go where you’re willing to go at the Olympics, that’s a good thing. For the last year, U.S. aerialist Mac Bohonnon has been honing in one of the sport’s most difficult and storied tricks. Now that he’s set to compete in the Olympic men’s qualification at the Phoenix Snow Park, he’s ready, if necessary, to let the Hurricane fly.
The 22-year-old from Madison, Conn., who relocated to Park City to live and train full-time started learning the trick — featuring three flips and five twists — to honor a mentor and friend in the late Jeret “Speedy” Peterson, a former Olympic silver medalist. The Hurricane was Peterson’s ace in the hole, too.
“I see it as kind of an extra move,” Bohonnon said. “I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t want to win the Olympics with that trick. No doubt.”
These, though, are not the warm summer nights Bohonnon flipped and twisted into the pools at the Utah Olympic Park, where he began perfecting the Hurricane best he could less than a year ago. It’s go-time now. The reason he worked on this over and over again, cramming it in, was for the night of qualifying jumps Friday night.
The first time he attempted it on snow was at last month’s freestyle World Cup stop on his home jumps at Deer Valley Resort. Bohonnon typically struggles at Deer Valley, he said, and was not jumping his best in January.
“Quite honestly, looking back on it,” he said, “I don’t know why I tried it up there.”
Then he remembered.
Peterson set the world record on the White Owl ski run when he landed the Hurricane. When he got off the rope tow back up to the top of the course to attempt it in his final training jump before the World Cup commenced, he saw the sign light up. “Hurricane Alley,” it reads, a site they named after Peterson made history there in 2007.
“Felt like the right place to do it,” Bohonnon said.
The question is: Will a similar feeling dawn on him in Pyeongchang?
The inaugural attempt on snow in Park City wasn’t great. He missed his takeoff slightly, a crucial key to eventually sticking the difficult maneuver. His body wasn’t straight when it needed to be mid-jump. Bohonnon said he got pretty close to landing the first one and has spent the last several weeks leading up to these Games practicing it.
There is expected to be a bit of gamesmanship before takeoffs here at the Olympics in qualifiers Friday and again in the medal round Saturday. It’s par for the course in this sport.
Aerialists can change their mind on what jump they’ll attempt in the seconds leading up to straightening their skis and sliding down. It’s rare, Bohonnon said, but oftentimes decisions to change it up get made in the heat of the moment.
Bohonnon can call an audible if a coach sees another jumper nail a tough jump just before. If he so chooses. Mentally preparing for one thing then shifting gears to another last second requires more than just execution. It requires brain training. Bohonnon knew last summer that the Hurricane could be in the mix here in February, so he spent practice after practice a year ago thinking he’d be doing one trick. His coach then would tell him to scrap it.
“That’s just something that we process and prepare for,” he said. “The Hurricane feels like an extra move to me, which is exciting.”