SOCHI, Russia -- Freestyle skier Mac Bohonnon was the lone teenager in the star-studded, 12-man field for the aerials final at the Olympics.
The kid looked 18. Until the competition started.
He fit right in on a pressure-packed night at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park. If one more competitor had slipped up, Bohannon would have made the four-man Super Final, but he ended up finishing fifth in his Olympic debut, a highly credible showing for the only American competitor in the field.
Anton Kushnir of Belarus won gold with a dazzling final salvo, a double full, full, double-full jump, cementing the status of Belarus as an aerial nation as it swept the men's and women's events.
For the precocious Bohonnon, this represented a start, not a finish.
"It's awesome, for sure," he said. "I would have absolutely loved to be in that final, competing with those guys and fighting for a chance at a medal."
Kushnir, for instance, is 29 and has been at this game for a long time as this was his third Olympics, and the silver medalist, David Morris of Australia, is also 29. The oldest aerialist in the 12-man final was someone double the age of Bohannon, 36-year-old Dmitri Dashinski of Belarus.
"It's definitely a huge confidence booster going into the next several years, competing against the best guys in the world," Bohannon said. "You can prepare for the Olympics for years and years. ... There's no better training than actually competing at it.
He grabbed the final spot in the 12-man final, and reached the second stage of the knockout rounds before just missing the Super Final.
It may be too early to assess the most important lessons of the Olympics for him.
"That's a tough one," Bohonnon said. "There's so many experiences to take away. To be that focused at the top. It's just the most pressure you can really compete under at the Olympics in the final. To be able to control those nerves and pressures and perform under them is definitely one of the biggest experiences is what I'm going to take away as a competitor."