Megeve dual moguls caps off 2014/15 World Cup season
MEGEVE, FRA – The final event of the 2014/15 FIS Freestyle World Cup season took to the slopes of Megeve, France, on Sunday, where Anthony Benna (FRA) capped off an incredible weekend for the host French with a win in front of a huge crowd and Hannah Kearney (USA) was near-perfect for a victory in what was likely the last competition of her World Cup career.
Kearney simply did best what she has been the best at for over half a decade, laying down clean run after clean run in each one of her match-ups on her way to a big final that would see her matched up against 2013 dual moguls world champion Chloe Dufour-Lapointe (CAN).
While Kearney hasn't entirely committed to her retirement yet, it seems very likely that Sunday was the last time we would see one of the greatest moguls skiers of all time in World Cup action. With her win on the day she tied compatriot Donna Weinbrecht as the winningest ladies' moguls skier of all time, giving her a piece-of or the outright claim-to nearly every moguls record available.
There's truly nothing Kearney hasn't won in moguls skiing, and if she is indeed retiring this season she can do so leaving nothing out on the table.
"It all feels the same," Kearney said when asked about her emotions following what may have been her last World Cup competition, "This is what I'm used to doing. So getting ready for a competition doesn't feel that emotional. But in the start gate I had some extra adrenaline, realizing it's probably my last time down a World Cup course. Again, I haven't made any full commitments (to retiring), but it's kinda hard to beat this fairytale ending.
"I'm really satisfied right now. Having my mother here, she was at my first competition 20 years ago... It's such a fun sport and a fun lifestyle and that's what makes it almost impossible to stop doing it. Especially when you're on top of the podium like today, there's no greater satisfaction than that. But I've gotten out of this sport everything I could have hoped for. I've overcame fears and achieved goals and gotten stronger as a person and an athlete, and hopefully those things are applicable in 'real life', too."
Kearney had this season's moguls World Cup title locked down before Sunday's event, but her win on the day vaulted her ahead of ski cross athlete Anna Holmlund to also give her the Freestyle overall crystal globe for the fourth time in the past five years.
Justine Dufour-Lapointe joined her sister and Kearney on the podium for Sunday's competition, taking the win in the small final and third place on the day, while she and Chloe switched places on the podium when it came time for the overall rankings, with Justine runner-up to Kearney and Chloe in third for the season.
In the men's competition, Mikael Kingsbury was unsuccessful in his bid to top Edgar Grospiron (FRA) as the winningest men's moguls skier of all time. With Grospiron and Canadian legend Jean-Luc Brassard in attendance at Megeve and looking on, Kingsbury suffering an uncharacteristic crash in his quarter final heat and found himself bumped from the competition.
Kingsbury, however, still left Megeve with the moguls and Freestyle overall crystal globes for the fourth straight season, and there is no doubt that he will surpass Grospiron's record early in 2015/16.
In the finish area after the event Kingsbury was happy with his day despite the fall.
"I knew this morning that I had the globes locked up, so today I just wanted to have fun and not put any pressure on myself. I had a bit of bad luck today, but that's life. I won seven in a row before that, so I have nothing to complain about. It was the best season ever and I'm super stoked right now.
"Next year I can get the record and hopefully continue to dominate. I've got a great team and great coaches around me and we're going to be great for a long time."
There's a pretty good chance Anthony Benna would have taken the competition on the day even if he had been forced to square off against Kingsbury in the big final, as the Frenchman was skiing like a man possessed throughout the day, putting down some of the cleanest, fastest runs we've seen from him even in a season when he has often been clean and fast.
Benna's win thrilled a French crowd that had been witness to a French sweep of the men's ski cross podium on Friday and saw local hero Jean Frederic Chapuis claim the men's ski cross crystal globe on Saturday. Benna's result gave the gathered fans one more reason to celebrate in a weekend that had been full of celebration.
Benna bested young US skier Tom Rowley in the big final. Rowley, however, would not leave Megeve empty handed, as he was awarded the moguls Rookie of the Year trophy in a ceremony following the competition. Rowley would share that stage with his teammate on the ladies' side Morgan Schild, as she too took home Rookie of the Year honours after a phenomenal breakout season.
Third place in the men's competition went to Alexandr Smyshlyaev (RUS) in a performance that would vault him into second place in the final moguls World Cup rankings, just ahead of Philippe Marquis (CAN).
The biggest winner on the day as a nation was Canada, as the Canadian team claimed the moguls Nations Cup and helped lock down the FIS Freestyle overall Nations cup in an incredibly tight battle that saw them finish the 2014/15 season only 54 points ahead of the US freestyle squad, with the final tally reading 4983 points for Canada, and 4929 for the USA.