Mikael Kingsbury wins 1st World Cup

Kristi Richards, Mikael Kingsbury and Pierre-Alexandre Rousseau in China

Heil, Richards and Rousseau also make podium

Kristi Richards, Mikael Kingsbury and Pierre-Alexandre Rousseau in China
Kristi Richards, Mikael Kingsbury and Pierre-Alexandre Rousseau in China

After a ten-day whirlwind trip around the world, the Canadian Freestyle Mogul Team is heading home for the holidays with a total of eight FIS World Cup medals — four of them earned here today at the first FIS World Cup Mogul event ever held in China.

Under sunny skies, teen mogul sensation Mikaël Kingsbury from Deux-Montagnes, Que., earned his first World Cup victory here with a score of 25.60 and was joined on the podium by the team’s elder statesman, Pierre-Alexandre Rousseau from Drummondville, Que., who took third place at 24.05. France’s Guilbaut Colas was second at 24.15.

Olympic Champion Hannah Kearney from the U.S. won the women’s event with 25.34 followed by the Canadian pair of: Spruce Grove, Alberta’s Jenn Heil at 25.26 and Summerland, B.C.’s Kristi Richards at 23.83, who matched their placings from Finland 10 days ago.

Kingsbury, who qualified in first position earlier in the day, said, “The chairlifts here were pretty slow, so we didn’t get a chance for a training run between qualifications and finals, so I talked to my coach and we decided not to risk doing anything different than I had done all day for my final run.

“Before my [final] run, I was listening to the scores from the other competitors and I knew I was in a position to win if I just put down the run I did in training. I did a clean run with a back full and a cork 720. I wasn’t the fastest guy, but I didn’t make any mistakes.”

This is Kingsbury’s second World Cup podium; he took home the silver ten days ago in Finland.

For his part, Rousseau, 31, said he was “happy and overwhelmed” by how well he has been skiing. “I thought last year at the Olympics was the pinnacle for me, but I’m still in great shape and I’m still improving.”

However, Rousseau’s celebration of his third place finish was eclipsed by his pride in his young teammate. “Mikaël has everything a mogul skier needs: jumps, speed and the right mindset. He proved it today and now I can leave the National Team this year with the knowledge that it’s in good shape for years to come,” said the 31-year-old who has announced he will retire after February’s World Championships in Deer Valley, UT.

Other Canadian men’s positions included: Eddie Hicks of Langley, B.C., in eighth, Cedric Rochon of St-Sauveur, Que., in 15th and Alex Bilodeau of Rosemère, Que., in 17th after catching an edge and falling in the qualification round.

Heil, who now lives in Montreal, was more than a second ahead of the rest of the field and her total score was only .8 off the leader. She said, “I did some great things with my skiing today, I took it up a level. I made a small mistake in the middle section that cost me, but I definitely laid the foundation for my confidence and my skiing to be at its maximum after Christmas.”

She added that it’s exciting to be on tour with a team that is, in her words, “on fire.”

Richards said her performances in Finland, France and here over the past ten days have been a breakthrough, “I feel like I am better able to focus and get into the groove and be able to stand in the gate and be ready to perform regardless of what else is going on around me.”