The Canadian freestyle mogul squad bagged an early Christmas gift today as it earned a gold and two silver medals in the FIS Freestyle World Cup season opening mogul competition.
Under cold and windy conditions Mikael Kingsbury took the first win of the season, while Alex Bilodeau and Justine Dufour-Lapointe both earned second place finishes. Moreover, five Canadian men and six Canadian women qualified for the final rounds of 16 in the competition.
Out of his four duals to make it to the top of the podium, Kingsbury had to face three of his countrymen, including Cedric Rochon from St. Sauveur, Que. and Marc-Antoine Gagnon from Terrebonne, Que. And while he was nervous about each of these runs, it was the final face-off against the reigning Olympic champion that was the most nerve-wracking for the 20-year-old from Deux-Montagnes, Que.
“I knew there was a lot of pressure in my dual against Alex, I knew the media would talk quite a bit about this dual for a long time after it. So, I tried to relax and have fun at the top of the course and even though Alex is my teammate I tried to treat him the same way I would any other competitor,” said Kingsbury, who won the crystal globe last season while Bilodeau was on a hiatus. “I always seem to go against Canadians, so I have a lot of practice treating them like anybody else when I’m in the gate.”
And apparently it worked, “I had a great run against Alex, I didn’t make a mistake,” Kingsbury said, adding that winning the qualification round was a bonus as it meant he got to choose his course first for every dual, “I chose the same course every time, I knew it so well that I felt like I couldn’t miss.”
Kingsbury added, “I have the best team in the world, they all congratulated me at the bottom of the course and I’ll be there for them for sure when they win.”
Bilodeau said he was “pretty happy” with his skiing on his return to full-time competition.
“It’s always challenging to go against [Kingsbury], he’s one of the best in the world and I’m happy for him today, he skied really well,” said the Rosèmere, Que. native.
Bilodeau added, “It was a good comeback for me, I’m not extremely happy about my skiing, there’s still room for improvement and I did a mistake in the middle section of my final run, but it was a good day.”
Jeremy Cota of the US took the bronze, edging Gagnon out of the medals in fourth position.
Other Canadian finishes included Rochon in seventh spot and Simon Pouliot-Cavanagh of Quebec City in eighth. Philippe Marquis made a mistake on his bottom jump in the qualification round and finished in 43rd.
In women’s action, Heather McPhie of the US earned the gold medal in a final dual against Justine Dufour-Lapointe. Aiko Uemura of Japan won the bronze.
Dufour-Lapointe was happy to continue the momentum that saw her hit the podium eight times last season. “Actually, it was pretty cool today because it was the first time that I got the highest technical scores in the turns technique in the qualification round. I worked on that all summer, so I have already achieved one goal.”
Justine was second to her big sister Chloé in the qualification runs, but her turn scores were the highest in the field.
“I’m pretty stoked,” said the Montreal-native, adding that her best dual of the day was against the renowned Uemura, the 2009 World Champion.
She said that against McPhie, her fifth race of the day, “I was a bit tired and I put my eyes down a bit and made a mistake.”
All the Canadian women in the field made it to today’s finals. Rookie Andi Naude of Penticton, B.C. was fifth after losing a dual to Uemura. Spruce Grove, Alta’s Chelsea Henituk was eight; Montreal sisters Chloé Dufour-Lapointe and Maxime Dufour-Lapointe were 9th and 14th, respectively and Audrey Robichaud of Quebec City was 16th.
Overall Canadian Mogul Air Coach Steve Omischl said the whole Canadian mogul coaching staff was happy. “These athletes put in so much work and with virtually all of our team making finals it is vindication for all that hard work.”
Mogul World Cup action continues next Saturday in Kreischberg, Austria. The Slopestyle team competes tomorrow at the Dew Cup.