Laffont and Horishima shine on day one in Tazawako
Tazawako (JPN) - Perrine Laffont (FRA) and Ikuma Horishima (JPN) topped the single moguls podium on day one of the FIS Freestyle Skiing World Cup event held in Japan’s Akita prefecture ski resort of Tazawako.
After two days of harsh weather Mother Nature finally decided to cooperate with the organisers just in time for the first of the back-to-back moguls action at Tazawako.
With the world’s best moguls skiers all on hand in Tazawako, huge crowds at the bottom of the course cheering those athletes on, mild temperatures, and nearly bluebird skies finally making for perfect skiing conditions, all the ingredients were in place to deliver another world class showcase. And once again the athletes of the moguls World Cup stepped up to the plate.
Laffont takes the win and the yellow World Cup leader bib
Coming off of a gold medal-winning performance at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games, Perrine Laffont kept the momentum rolling, storming to victory in the ladies’ competition with a high score of 83.03 points. With top competitors Jaelin Kauf (USA) and Andi Naude (CAN) struggling mightily on Saturday, Laffont’s performance on the day was enough to bump her to the top of the World Cup ranking, giving her the yellow leader’s bib with only three more stops to go in the season.
“I was very tired after the Games and also coming here, struggling with a jet lag and not getting enough sleep,” Laffont said following the award ceremony, “I was trying to focus on my skiing, having fun and skiing without any pressure so taking a back-to-back win is just so nice.”
“It’s my first time to have a yellow World Cup leader bib, so it’s pretty exciting and of course I will try to keep it until the end of the season.”
Mimicking the Olympic results with a second place performance on the day was PyeongChang 2018 silver medallist Justine Dufour-Lapointe (CAN), who finished Saturday’s competition just behind the French teenager with a score of 81.33 points.
“I feel so happy actually, because the last time I win the medal in Japan was back in 2014,” said Dufour-Lapointe. “I think I took all the energy from the Japanese fans and decided to give my best out there and I did. I’m so proud and happy to be here.”
“I love Japanese fans,” Dufour-Lapointe went on, “They’re so full of happiness and I feel like I really relate to them. They seems to be always happy to see me, so it’s a pleasure to give them back all the positive feelings.” The USA’s Keaton McCargo rounded out the ladies’ podium on third with 81.06 for her career’s second World Cup podium finish.
Ikuma Horishima surprises yet once again
Over on the men’s side it was the double world champion from Sierra Nevada who came with yet another impressive performance to steal the top spot from Mikael Kingsbury for the second time this season, after scoring his career’s first World Cup victory in Tremblant just before the Games.
“It feels very good to win here in Tazawako in front of the home crowd,” said Horishima, “It’s my second World Cup victory this season so I just couldn’t be more happy right now and I’ll do my best to also show my best skiing in tomorrow’s dual moguls competition.”
Going fast and flying high on his final run, Horishima received a massive score of 91.03 points and set the bar high for Kingsbury who was dropping in as the last athlete of the day.
And despite all the efforts from Kingsbury, a little mistake on the bottom air costed the Canadian ripper the victory as he had to settle for the second spot. Upon seeing Horishima’s score of 89.27 pop onto the screen the passionate Japanese fans went wild, and Horishima was able to celebrate his second straight World Cup win in front of the home crowd.
“I’m happy for Ikuma, he’s a great kid,” Kingsbury said, “He’s kind of like me and wants to win every time he’s on the slope. My goal this year was to win gold at the Games so now it’s definitely less pressure coming into the last part of the season and now I’m just having fun skiing.”
Dmitriy Reikherd (KAZ), second on the moguls World Cup ranking behind Kingsbury this seaosn, finished the competition in third with a score of 87.26 points for his sixth podium finish in 2017/18.
The moguls action in Tazawako continues tomorrow with the first dual moguls event of the season. The preliminary rounds start at 11:15 with the finals coming up at 12:30.