Kearney and Kingsbury claim victories and chase down records in Val St-Come
VAL ST-COME, CAN – While it's a story that has been written dozens of times over the past several seasons, it's one that never quite gets old, as Hannah Kearney (USA) and Mikael Kingsbury (CAN) continue to find ways to amaze - this time by again topping the podium at a moguls World Cup (this time in moguls hotbed Val St-Come, Canada) while again inching their respective ways towards a pair of FIS Freestyle World Cup records.
In the ladies' event, Kearney was simply on another level than the field on Saturday, scoring nearly nine points higher than her main rival Justine Dufour-Lapointe (CAN) in qualification, and then winning in the super final by more than seven points over middle Dufour-Lapointe sister Chloe, after Justine had problems in final number one and failed to advance.
Kearney has struggled somewhat lately by the lofty standards she has set for herself, going three competitions in a row without a win. While this in itself is no cause for concern, the fact that Kearney declared her retirement before the start of the season, had only four races left in her World Cup career before Val St-Come, and was three wins behind Donna Weinbrecht (USA) for the all-time moguls record, means that every time she drops in on the moguls course for the rest of the season, even with all she has accomplished in her career, there is an expectation and a pressure that she must feel.
On Saturday, with her chances of claiming the outright title of winningest ladies' moguls skier of all time on the line, Kearney was able to step back up with a masterful performance to keep the hopes of the record alive.
For her part, Chloe Dufour-Lapointe was able to re-find the form that she had at the start of the season to claim her fourth podium of 2014/15, after a minor rough patch that saw her score a pair of results in the 30s after her last podium in Deer Valley.
Chloe lead a strong charge by the Canadian squad on home soil, as Audrey Robichaud was able to step up and take third place for her first podium in nearly two years and Andi Naude and Maxime Dufour-Lapointe finished fifth and sixth respectively.
Young US skier Keaton McCargo rounded out the ladies' top six, in fourth.
On the men's side, Kingsbury survived a small scare in final one when Troy Murphy (USA) laid down the best score, locking back into form in the super final and locking down his fifth win in a row – one win away from the moguls World Cup record he already shares with Jeremy Bloom (USA).
Three seasons on from his previous shot at the record, and without the day-in, day-out challenge of skiing against his now-retired teammate Alex Bilodeau, it seems that this could be the season that Kingsbury sets a new mark for moguls dominance for the men.
Behind Kingsbury at Val St-Come was Matt Graham (AUS) who continues a breakout season that has seen him now score two career podiums, as the 20 year old was able to edge Sochi 2014 bronze medallist Alexandra Smyshlyaev with a solid finals run.
For Smyshlyaev, Saturday's third-place finish was his second straight podium, and comes just on the heels of his bronze medal performance at the Kreischberg 2015 World Championships.
From Val St-Come, the moguls World Cup heads to Tazawako, Japan, for both moguls and dual moguls events, before finishing off the season in Megeve, France. With wins in both Tazawako events, Kingsbury could claim outright possession of the longest World Cup moguls win streak, while Kearney will need a victory in all three events remaining in the season to become the winningest ladies moguls skier of all time, just ahead of her retirement.