On April 4, U.S. Freestyle Team aerialist Matt Chojnacki, 27, broke the world record for the number of flips and twists performed by an aerialist: eight (four flips with four twists), smashing a mark that had stood for 18 years. Frank Bare had established the previous record with a triple-twisting quad back in 1983.
Matt warmed up for the record by sticking double- and triple-twisting quads -- the first and only quads ever performed in competition -- at the 2000 Sprint Grand National Invitational last December, where he beat the best aerialists in the world. Then came his April feat, which landed him in The Guinness Book of World Records as well as Warren Miller's upcoming film, Cold Fusion.
Currently, only three competitors complete quads of any kind consistently: Matt, U.S. aerialist Eric Bergoust, and Canadian Nicholas Fontaine. "The quad is difficult because of the additional speed involved," Matt says. "Plus, to a certain degree, the jumps are designed for triples. Basically you're doing a quad on a jump that's not designed for it. You're also going farther down the landing hill, so the landing impact can be harder."
The key to the quad quad, Matt says, is to begin twisting during the first flip. This is chancy because it allows no time for the aerialist to orient himself in the air. "You have to orient yourself right away, and at that speed, there's a lot going on in the first half second."
In an ideal world, this achievement would make Matt the odds-on favorite to win Olympic gold in Salt Lake City. But last October, the FIS banned quad flips from World Cup and Olympic competition (perhaps because so few competitors, all North Americans, can throw quads). Rather than revert to a humdrum routine of quad-twisting triples, Matt decided to quit the World Cup and Olympic scene. "I would have liked to push the sport further," he says. "And if I can't do that, what's the point?"