An unfathomable family tragedy occured in the Lillis family back in October 2018.
Mikey Lillis, younger brother of current Olympian Chris and former Olympian Jonathon Lillis, unexpectedly passed away at the age of 17 in his sleep.
Mikey was in peak physical condition for a boy his age, constantly training and competing like his older brothers who also happened to be charmed by freestyle ski aerials. The three Lillis boys were known for being the world class freestyle skiing trio from East Rochester.
Mikey adored the jumping sport and sought to compete in the 2018 Winter Games, however his chances were severed by this unexpected turn of events.
On that terrible October day, the dream of all three brothers competing together one day at the Olympics shattered right before their eyes.
Nonetheless, despite the family devastation, Mikey’s older brothers fought to continue their journeys to eventually get a chance to stand on the podium -- for themselves and for Mikey's honor.
Back in 2018, Chris could have been an Olympian like he always dreamt about, but he tore is ACL shortly before the Pyeongchang Games began. He took a small hiatus to rejuvenate while his brother Jonathon competed as the reigning world champion. To his dismay, Jonathon failed to reach the podium.
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But Jonathon went on to compete in the 2018 Pyeongchang Games and Chris is currently competing in the 2022 Beijing Games.
At the 2018 Games, Jonathon wore a glass pendant to the Olympic opening ceremony and the treasured accessory held some of his younger brother’s ashes.
“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,” said Jonathon in an interview with Today.
Chris has high hopes for a place on the podium this year, but he also feels the revving pressure, considering no American man has medaled in aerials since Peterson at the 2010 Vancouver Games.
Just four years after his older brother Jonathon competed in this very event, Chris is competing in men’s aerials at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics to continue the Lillis legacy.