Laffont and Horishima win golds in dual moguls shocker
Sierra Nevada, SPA - The second day of competition at the Sierra Nevada 2017 Freestyle Ski and Snowboard World Championships set a standard that all other competitions will have a tough time topping, with Perrine Laffont (FRA) taking ladies’ gold and Ikuma Horishima (JPN) becoming the first ever men’s double world champion in a hugely entertaining dual moguls competition.
Dual moguls is always an unpredictable event, but few could have foreseen the outcome of Thursday’s competition, where the entire Canadian squad - including 2015 dual moguls world champion Mikael Kingsbury - were eliminated in the quarterfinals, yesterday’s ladies’ single moguls world champion Britt Cox (AUS) was bumped in the semi finals, and the men’s super final saw both athletes involved in separate crashes in their push for the finish line.
Laffont took a tough road to the final, knocking off Hedwig Wessel (NOR), Keaton McCargo (USA), and Jaling Kauf (USA) on her way to a showdown with Yulia Galysheva of Kazakstan in the big final.
Once there, both Laffont and Galysheva showed off just why they were the last two ladies standing on the day, putting aside the pressure of the moment and laying down a pair of masterful runs that would leave no one envious of the judges duties in deciding a winner. For most gathered it was too close to call, but when the scores came down the decision went to Laffont by slimmest possible margin - 18-17.
“It’s crazy…I can’t believe it,” Laffont said from the finish, still emotional after celebrating with her extended family who were on hand to witness the occassion, “I’m 18 years old and I’m the new world champion. Just last year I was the junior world champion and now I’m the real world champ. Last year I won my first world cup, yesterday I took silver medal (in single moguls), and today I’m the champion. I can’t believe it.
“In the start before final I had no energy. I was like, ‘I can’t do this. I’m so tired.’ After winning silver yesterday I was just so tired. But I just tried, I did everything I could in my final run, and it worked.”
Galysheva’s silver medal was one step up from her performance at the Kreischberg 2015 world championships, where she took the bronze, with Thursday’s medal coming ten years to the day after she competed in her first world championships competition.
In the small final, the above-mentioned Kauf squared off against Jee-Won Seo (KOR), where she was able to claim the first Sierra Nevada 2017 medal for the USA with a strong 21-14 victory.
Horishima first man to claim double world championship gold
While the ladies’ competition certainly had it’s share of upsets and surprises, nothing could compare to the men’s dual moguls finals at Sierra Nevada. Beginning with the first heat and ending with the final one it was one shocking result after another, and by the end of the competition Ikuma Horishima - yesterday’s single moguls winner - would take the victory and become the first men to win double moguls world championships gold medals.
First up was eight final number one, where the eventual-winner Horishima knocked off the typically indomitable Kingsbury with ease, by a score of 21-14. From there, the list of favourites to fall in the first round of heats included Ben Cavet (FRA), Matt Graham (AUS), and Philippe Marquis - athletes ranked two, three, and four in the world, respectively.
Meanwhile, Horishima calmly carried on from his defeat of Kingsbury, proceeding to smash his way to the big final by skiing faster, tighter, and bolder runs than seemed physically possible.
In the big final he met Bradley Wilson, the athlete consistently proven to be the fastest on the moguls World Cup this past season, and having those two in the mix would quickly prove too volatile to last.
After a blistering top section, both athletes started to lose form just after the first jump, with Horishima losing control first and crashing to a full stop in the middle of the course. Wilson, meanwhile, was desperately fighting a losing battle to hold it all together himself, but eventually he he too would give in to gravity and pull up short just behind the bottom air bump, then skipping that jump and rolling slowly into the final pitch and towards the finish.
Meanwhile, Horishima had picked himself up, seen the struggles of Wilson, and set back on down the course, launching a massive off-axis 720 off the bottom jump and pinning it across the line just behind Wilson.
It was almost too much to believe for the fans gathered at the bottom of the course, but the judges in the booth, pros prepared for virtually any scenario, were able to properly evaluate both runs and give the win to Horishima by a score of 20-15.
Silver medallist Wilson had an was insightful in describing what happened following the competition.
“He was the one athlete skiing faster than me in singles yesterday, and I knew that, going into finals. I landed the top air a going a little too fast and couldn’t quite control it. I was about to blow out, but then I saw him blow out and I just tried to hold, but by then I had really already lost it. Unfortunately, it took me almost the whole run to finally figure it out, and I missed the bottom air.
“Looking back on it, it’s like, ‘Oh man, if only I could have done something else,’ but hindsight is 20/20. I’m still super stoked with my runs before the big final, and I’m pumped on this medal. I mean, second place at the world championships, this is definitely one of the highlights of my career.
Through a translator, the 19-year-old Horishima reflected on his big final.
“In the start I was very nervous, but I knew also that I had strength. When I fell down, I knew that I would get back up and finish the run, no matter what. This is what I did and now I am the double world champion.”
Bronze on the day would go to Switzerland's Marco Tade, with the 21-year-old Swiss skier taking the small final win against his good friend and roommate here in Sierra Nevada, Sacha Theocharis of France, after Theocharis crashed out in the middle of his run.