Aerialist extraordinaire Eric Bergoust retires from competition


Aerialist extraordinaire Eric Bergoust retires from competitionFormer Olympic, World Championships and World Cup aerials champion Eric Bergoust has retired from competition after the most successful aerials career in international history — 16 years on the World Cup, four Olympics, four World Championships and 15 World Cup victories.

The emphasis, he said June 19, has shifted from planning big jumps to a different kind of jump: he’s planning to marry Sally Jo Beck July 22 in Missoula, Montana. They were childhood friends and have been together for six years. “Neither of us is very nervous now,” Bergoust said, “but maybe that’ll come.”

Bergoust was an ardent trampoline fan as a youngster, but when he saw aerials footage on ESPN in 1985, he found a new sport. He was the first person through the gate at the 1988 Olympics in Calgary, where aerials was a demonstration event; that summer he moved to Lake Placid on his own and was all but adopted by the U.S. coaching staff. He won the NorAm aerials title that season and was on his way.

An intense competitor, he would go on to collect the silver medal at the 1997 World Championships in Nagano, Japan, then come back a year later to win the 1998 Olympic aerials gold medal in Nagano. He also was aerials gold medalist at the 1999 World Championships and was a three-time World Cup champion — 2001 and ’02 in aerials plus the overall title in ’02.

At one point, indicative of his dominance in his event, Bergoust owned the three highest scores for an aerials event in history.

“He did it all,” said U.S. Freestyle team head coach Jeff Wintersteen. “It’s been fun being around him because he was such a professional, such a hard worker … always looking to do more than the coaches wanted him to do. They’d be looking for him to pull back and Bergy would want to do more. And he was a good teammate, which is so important. His record, of course, speaks for itself. We certainly wish him the best.”

Bergoust said he had no immediate plans beyond working with coach Joe Chalmers and local freestyle skiers in the Missoula Freestyle program at the Snowbowl. “Joe’s my best friend and he runs a great program, and I’d like to learn about coaching with him this winter. We’ll see,” Bergoust said.

He doesn’t have a “single greatest moment” in his career, Bergoust said, but any list would include his first Olympics (1994 in Lillehammer, Norway, where he was seventh), the ’98 Olympic gold medal in Nagano, and a Bumps & Jumps contest at California’s Heavenly resort (also in 1998), when he won after completing five outstanding jumps. Another favorite was any competition in Meiringen, Switzerland, site of the 1999 World Championships.

“I won every time I competed in Meiringen — two World Cups and at worlds,” he said. “I usually felt pretty good when we were there.”

— USSA

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