Bilodeau v. Kingsbury and Dufour-Lapointe v. Kearney for 2013/14 World Cup supremacy
LA PLAGNE, FRA – What has been one of the most compelling moguls seasons in World Cup history is nearly at an end, as Friday evening will see the last competition of 2013/14 with World Cup finals dual moguls competition in La Plagne, France.
For the first time in several years there is a true battle for supremacy on both the men's and ladies' sides, as Olympic gold medal winners Alex Bilodeau (CAN) and Justine Dufour-Lapointe (CAN) are in position to knock 2011/12 and 2012/13 moguls and freestyle World Cup overall champions Mikael Kingsbury (CAN) and Hannah Kearney (USA) from the top of the rankings.
Both Kingsbury and Kearney currently sit on top of their respective leader boards, but by some slim margins. Kingsbury has some breathing room, with 810 points to Bilodeau's 779, and he needs to only finish either ahead or one place behind Bilodeau to retain his World Cup title. Kearney, however, has 750 points to Justine's 745, and must finish ahead of the youngest Dufour-Lapointe sister to hold on to the crown that she has worn since the 2010/11 season.
Bilodeau announced some time ago that this would be his last World Cup season, and having taken gold at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games ahead of Kingsbury he has put his name in the running for 'best moguls skier of all time.' However, the competitive fire seems to be burning right to the end for the 26-year-old, and he has made it clear with his disappointed reaction to his last few results that he holds a deep desire to claim the crystal globe as well.
Whether she catches Kearney or not, the 2013/14 season will be remembered as Justine Dufour-Lapointe's coming out party, when the vivacious 19 year old emerged as the first real threat to Kearney's dominance since the Vancouver 2010 Games. With her performance at Sochi 2014, Dufour-Lapointe showed a maturity beyond her years and an ability to perform at the top level in high-stakes situations - an experience she will have to draw on should she hope to best Kearney in La Plagne.
While no other skier can catch any of the top two men and top two ladies' listed above, there have been some compelling stories in the lower rankings.
Alexandr Smyshlyaev (RUS) was able to score the lone freestyle skiing medal for the host nation at Sochi 2014, and then followed that up by beating the big boys at last weekend's World Cup competition in Voss-Myrkdalen, Norway. Young Bradley Wilson (USA) scored four podiums in 2013/14, and sits behind only Kingsbury, Bilodeau, and US team leader Patrick Deneen (USA) on the World Cup leader board. And Deneen, for his part, has had another consistently strong year, even while registering less podiums than we have come to expect from him.
On the ladies' side, Justine Dufour-Lapointe was just one part of a sister story that captured the world's imagination in Sochi 2014, as she and sister Chloe went gold-silver at the biggest event in sport. With eldest sister Maxime enjoying the best season of her life, with a 12th place performance at Sochi 2014 and the first two World Cup podiums of her career won in 2013/14, all three sisters are currently performing at their highest-ever level.
Justine, Chloe, and Maxime currently sit second, third, and fourth respectively on the World Cup leader board, making for a truly remarkable season for Les Soeurs Dufour-Lapointe. Heather McPhie (USA) rounds out the ladies' moguls top five.
At the end of an exhausting season, Friday's competition in La Plagne may end up being a battle of the will as much as a competition of skill. Focus and energy will be at a premium come Friday evening, and the men's and ladies' crystal globes may be lost just as much as they are won if fatigue plays a part in the proceedings.
Competition program for moguls World Cup finals from La Plagne, FRA, can be seen HERE
Ladies' World Cup standings can be seen HERE
Men's World Cup standings can be seen HERE
More info can be found HERE