Jonathon Lillis will not become the first U.S. skier to medal in men’s aerials in Pyeongchang.
It was Ukrainian skier Oleksandr Abramenko who landed on top to win gold. China's Jia Zongyang's score, just barely below Abramenko's, got him the silver medal. Russian athlete Ilia Burov won bronze.
While Lillis stomped his landings in the first two rounds of finals Sunday, so did most of his competitors, and Lillis' scores couldn't get him into the top six spots to remain in medal contention.
The last American to win a medal in the event was the late Jeret Peterson, who took silver in Sochi.
Lillis, who is from Rochester, recorded the highest score in qualifying — 127.44 — after he landed a quadruple twisting triple backflip.
The 23-year-old had waited a long time to make his Olympic debut. He was left off the team in 2014 despite meeting the criteria and has finished in the top ten of the World Cup rankings in three consecutive seasons.
Lillis had been competing with a heavy heart at these Olympics after his younger brother suddenly passed away four months ago. Mikey Lillis, 17, was also an up-and-comer aerials competitor. He died in his sleep in October.
“We came back home, I said goodnight to him, he went to his room and I went to mine, and he never woke up,” his father, Bernie Lillis, told Today. “The night before, on the way home, we were just talking about the upcoming ski season and general views on life and I remember thinking, ‘He’s really growing up.’”
Jonathon wore a glass pendant containing his brother's ashes during the Olympic opening ceremony, according to multiple reports.
“It was all of our dreams to compete in the Olympics together, and knowing that he never got the chance … it felt like the best way to give him that experience,” Jonathon told Today. “And to keep him close during those events, because he obviously won’t be there.”
Lillis’ middle brother, Chris, was also an Olympic hopeful but tore his ACL shortly before the Olympics.
After returning to competition, Jonathon channeled his grief into a sense of fearlessness that allowed him to land some of the most difficult tricks in the sport.
The top 12 skiers in qualifying advanced to the final, and American Mac Bohonnon, a former World Cup champion failed to qualify, as did defending Olympic gold medalist Anton Kushnir of Belarus.
The aerials final consists of three runs for each skier, with the three lowest scoring competitors eliminated after each round. The highest score in the third round wins gold.