Deer Valley all set for another epic week
Deer Valley, USA - One of the highlights of the 2016/17 FIS Freestyle World Cup program is set to take to the storied slopes of Utah’s Deer Valley Resort this weekend, as the annual Visa Freestyle International will see moguls, aerials, and the season’s first dual moguls competition running from February 2-4.
Along with earlier January host venues Lake Placid (USA) and Calgary (CAN), Deer Valley is recognized for being one of the longest-running and most historic Freestyle venues in the world, and has hosted World Cup competitions in nearly every season dating back to 1999/2000. As well, Deer Valley was the host venue for the Freestyle events for the Salt Lake City 2002 Olympic Winter Games, and it is the only resort in the world that can lay claim to hosting the Freestyle World Ski Championships twice.
And, with a huge opening concert in the middle of downtown Park City, tens of thousands of fans on hand over the course of the event’s three days, fireworks after every competition, and the Deer Valley competitions themselves held under the lights on the resort’s Champion mogul and White Owl aerials runs, nothing else in skiing really matches the Deer Valley experience.
With three competitions already in January the 2016/17 FIS Freestyle moguls World Cup becomes more intriguing with every event - especially after a Calgary competition that saw a pair of Australian skiers take top spot in both the ladies’ and men’s competitions for a best-ever World Cup result for the nation more traditionally associated with summer and surfing.
For the ladies, this meant that Britt Cox took her third win in four competitions thus far in 2016/17 and extended her World Cup lead over reigning Olympic gold medallist Justine Dufour-Lapointe (CAN) to 84 points - 345 to Dufour-Lapointes’s 281. After coming into the season with a career-best World Cup standing of 14th-overall, Cox suddenly looks poised to battle for the first moguls crystal globe for AUS since Dale Begg-Smith did it back in 2007/08.
Meanwhile, Cox’s teammate Matt Graham scored the second win of his career in Calgary, facing down the inimitable Mikael Kingsbury (CAN) and beating him at his own game in a heavyweight superfinal. While Kingsbury still leads the men’s moguls World Cup by 74 points over Graham - 320 points to 246 - the Canadian hasn’t enjoyed the type of dominance over the field that we’ve come to expect from him.
Deer Valley has provided mixed results for Kingsbury in the past - wins in both the singles and duals in 2015 were followed up by a second and fifth-place result last season - so it will be interesting to see where things stand after this weekend.
Also to watch out for in Deer Valley are the young guns of the host US squad, with Nessa Dziemian and Tom Rowley both coming off career-best finishes in Calgary.
Saturday’s Deer Valley finale dual moguls event will be the first duals competition of the season. The fan-favourite format leads to unpredictable results more often than not, and if history repeats itself Saturday’s competition will bring no shortage of entertainment to Deer Valley’s Champion moguls course.
With a couple of weeks off to rest and train since the last competition in Lake Placid, the men and ladies of the aerials World Cup should be ready let fly in Deer Valley come Friday evening.
The host US squad comes into Deer Valley looking strong after a two-podium outing in Lake Placid that saw Ashley Caldwell take home-soil victory in impressive fashion on the ladies’ side with some incredible triple jumps, and Mac Bohonnon return to the men’s podium for the first time this season with a second-place finish.
Second-place for the ladies’ in Lake Placid went to Danielle Scott (AUS), and her third podium in as many events this season has her sitting atop the World Cup standings heading into Deer Valley.
For the men, it’s Anton Kushnir (BLR) riding high atop the leaderboard, with the Sochi 2014 Olympic gold medalist in the midst of a so-far incredible comeback season in which he already has two victories. After spending nearly three years away from competition following his Olympic win Kushnir is once again the man to beat, and will be looking for his third career win in Deer Valley come Friday evening.
Worth noting also will be the return of the strong Chinese aerials team after their top squad sat out competition in Lake Placid. Despite not competing in Lake Placid, Chinese aerialists hold second overall on both the ladies’ and men’s side, with top lady Xu Mengtao and top man Qi Guangpu both owning two previous victories in Deer Valley.