Everything was going right for George McQuinn on Thursday in Deer Valley, Utah, in the FIS World Cup freestyle skiing competition, which was serving as one of Team USA’s final Olympic qualifiers.
In the round of 16, McQuinn threw a corked 1080 on the top jump, kept his knees together as he flew through the moguls and then tossed another spinning flip with his signature wacky-daffy grab on the bottom jump. McQuinn stomped the landing and flew through the finish line in 24.33 seconds, scoring a 80.03 that bumped him into the lead.
McQuinn led most of the round and was the only skier from Team USA to reach Thursday’s six-man super final, qualifying in third place.
“He definitely represented yesterday,” said Kirk Rawles, who coached McQuinn in Durango when he was younger and is the brother of McQuinn’s coach, Scott Rawles. “To qualify third behind the greatest skier of all-time (Canada’s Mikael Kingsbury) is definitely something he’ll remember for the rest of his life.”
McQuinn started the run by landing a cork-1080 on the top jump and then attacked the moguls. Right before the bottom jump, however, a mogul bucked McQuinn, sending him upside down. McQuinn hit his head on the jump and went limp, flying upside down through the air and landing on his head. The crowd went silent as he slid to the bottom of the run, not moving.
Kirk Rawles, who talked with coach Scott Rawles and McQuinn’s father, Michael McQuinn, said he was “doing fine” Friday.
“He was conscious in the finish area and knew where he was,” Kirk Rawles said. “A good sign is he was mad that that happened.”
The Team USA doctor at the event also worked in the emergency room at the hospital where McQuinn was taken, so he received immediate care and was observed through the night, Kirk said.
“I think he was very lucky,” Kirk Rawles said.
The competition resumed after about 15 minutes. Kingsbury, the defending Olympic champion, skiing next.
“This one is for him,” Kingsbury told the Salt Lake Tribune. “I know this was his first super final. He’s an exciting skier with a bright future. I just hope he’s OK and we get to ski in a super final in the future together.”
Kingsbury won the event with a 83.28 for his World Cup victory No. 100. Japan’s Ikuma Horishima finished second (81.98), Japan’s Kosuke Sugiemoto placed third (79.02), Sweden’s Ludvig Fjallstrom placed fourth (77.28), Australia’s Cooper Woods finished fifth (76.10) and McQuinn finished sixth (29.12).
McQuinn, however, wasn’t the only skier who crashed on Deer Valley’s Championship run. Two U.S. male skiers, Cole McDonald and Joel Hedrick, did not finish while Nick Page did not start after crashing in a practice run. In the women’s final, the U.S. skiers didn’t ski clean either, with Olivia Giaccio placing fifth with a 49.84 and Elizabeth Lemley finishing sixth with a 35.62.
“This course is one of the toughest in the world, and it took a toll on the U.S. team,” Kirk said, calling it steep and filled with huge bumps. “The course probably won yesterday for the most part.”
Because of the finals’ timing, the light had also started to get flat while the snow started to crisp over, adding to the challenge.
A second World Cup competition took place Friday at Deer Creek, which is the final Team USA Olympic qualifier, but McQuinn was unable to compete. Now he’ll just have to wait and see if his super final qualifying performance was enough to earn him a spot for Team USA in the Olympics.
McQuinn also competed at World Cup events in Mont-Tremblant, Canada, this January where he finished 29th and then 19th.