Next stop Beijing
[ by Than Acuff ]
Aaron Blunck just wrapped up his competition circuit prior to the Olympics taking the silver medal in the men’s ski halfpipe at the X Games in Aspen on Sunday, January 23. It’s his fourth X Games medal, including a gold medal, and was a great way to close out the season prior to the Olympic Games in Beijing, China in February.
“I truly had a blast the entire time,” says Blunck. “I just took the momentum I had at Mammoth a couple of weeks ago and ran with it.”
The X Games switched up the schedule of events moving the men’s ski halfpipe to closing night on Sunday giving the build up to the event a different feel, one that aligned more with Blunck’s approach to the sport this season.
“We had a week of training and I was able to take it slow, there was no need to rush,” explains Blunck. “All season I’ve been making sure I take days off when needed and making sure I feel good and relaxed.”
In addition, with the event set to close out the X Games, it set up an atmosphere different from past years when the athletes were almost the pre-party for the music each night.
“It was cool to bring the spotlight back to the athletes,” says Blunck. “It was the biggest crowd I’ve seen there in a while.”
The X Games ski halfpipe competition is unique in that the athletes have 35 minutes total for everyone to get in four runs each. There’s no scoring displayed, instead it’s just live ranking as the athletes continue to drop into the halfpipe for their runs.
“It feels different with the ‘jam’ style,” says Blunck. “It kind of brings back the energy from those little kid rail jams back in the day. It’s so different but at the same time it’s rad. Just go, go, go, go.”
Blunck opened with three great halfpipe runs and when a hiccup on his fourth and final run had him out of sync, he opted to finish his final run safe and remain healthy rather than try to push through it and force his run.
“I landed three of the best runs of my life and didn’t want to injure myself before the Olympics,” says Blunck.
Blunck now enters the Beijing Olympic bubble as he heads to Copper to train and live with the team and coaches until the Olympics are over.
“From now on, it’s game on,” says Blunck. “No family, no friends just the ski team until the end of China.”
Good thing too, as Blunck feels better than ever during a season and certainly better than he felt going into his first two Olympic Games in Russia and South Korea.
“I was 17 at my first Olympics and I had so many injuries in 2018 that by the time I got to Korea I could barely walk, let alone ski,” says Blunck. “This season I changed my m.o. with more focus on health, recovery and wellness and this is, without a doubt, the healthiest I’ve been going into an Olympics. It seems like everything is moving in such a positive direction.”
The Winter Olympic Games in Beijing, China start on February 4 with the men’s halfpipe ski qualifier rounds on Thursday, February 17 and the finals Saturday, February 19.