February 01, 2013
Maxim Gustik shows his gold-medal form in this multiple-exposure display.
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

PARK CITY, Utah (AP) -- American rookie Michael Rossi wasn't even supposed to make the finals of Friday night's World Cup freestyle aerials competition at Park City's Deer Valley Resort.

Yet when the jumper with the highest score of the night slid hard on his landing, the 18-year-old Rossi sneaked in.

Rossi made the most of his opportunity, landing a final jump to claim the first World Cup podium of his young career.

Rossi took the bronze after hitting a full, full, full combination, finishing with 111.37 points.

Maxim Gustik of Belarus finished with 117.85 points to win his first World Cup gold. Canada's Travis Gerrits (115.83) took the silver.

"It's the greatest feeling. . It hasn't even set in yet," said Rossi, who was making only his eighth World Cup start. "I know what I am capable of. And I'm so glad I got to throw it down in front of the hometown crowd. It was just awesome."

Rossi grew up in Long Valley, N.J., but visited Park City several years back, taking some runs down the water ramps where the U.S. team practices.

"I ended up loving it," Rossi said.

The next year he moved to Park City and was part of the U.S. development team.

"We found him on the trampoline a couple of years ago, and he's already well beyond where we thought he was," U.S. freestyle director Todd Schirman said. "The sky is the limit for these guys."

Rossi pumped his fists and raised his arms high in front of the partisan crowd and horde of family members that included his parents, two sets of aunts and uncles and a cousin.

"It's an amazing thing for our development program, our recruitment system, our coaches," Schirman said. "He jumped well all summer long, and we knew he could do it. He started really listening to the coaches, paying attention, stepping up . and he's on the podium.

"Anytime we can have any podium at Deer Valley . it's the best sight in the world. To have one of our rookies on the podium makes it very special."

While Rossi was making his first podium, Gustik won his first gold in his fourth year of competition.

He said he was a little surprised but liked the venue.

Asked about upsetting China's best, Gustik shrugged.

"They are very strong but it showed we can beat them," he said through a translator. "Anything is possible."

When it comes to women's aerials, China's Xu Mengtao showed she is the best.

When other women settled for easier jumps in the finals, Mengtao went after a lay-double-full-full and hit it to earn her fourth World Cup gold in five events this season and defend the title she won last year at Deer Valley.

"Good air and good landing, I'm very happy," she said.

And with the Olympics just a year away she added, "I'm very hungry."

Australia's Laura Peel took silver and China's Zhang Xin won bronze.

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