Moguls World Cup set to fire it up at Ruka season opener
RUKA, FIN, 10 DEC 2013 - FIS Freestyle moguls World Cup is slated to get back underway for the 2013-14 season with the moguls World Cup Opening competition under the lights in the polar night at Ruka, FIN, from December 13-15, 2013.
This year's event will be the seventh time the Freestyle tour has visited Ruka's slopes, and the fourth consecutive year that World Cup moguls competition has used the 2005 Freestyle World Ski Championships venue as a jumping-off point for the season. Many athletes have been in Ruka training for the past several days, and it should be interesting to see if the extra familiarity brings any advantage for those skiers.
A total of 51 ladies and 79 men representing 27 countries are slated to point it down Ruka's imposing pitch this weekend, with competitors registered from places as far-flung as Iran as nations around the globe seek to score points and earn quota spots for the rapidly approaching Sochi Olympic Games.
Last year's event saw a dual moguls battle in which American Heather McPhie was able to hold off young Canadian Justine Dufour-Lapointe to take what would be the first of back-to-back wins to begin McPhie's season. Both McPhie and Dufour-Lapointe would go on to have career-best years on the World Cup tour in 2012-13, with Dufour-Lapointe finishing 2nd in the ladies' overall World Cup rankings and McPhie coming in close behind in 3rd.
Legend Aiko Uemura (JPN) took 3rd place at Ruka last season, edging Nikola Sudova (CZE) in the small finals.
On the men's side it was Mikael Kingsbury (CAN) doing what he does best, as he was able to prevail over countryman and 2010 Olympic moguls champion Alex Bilodeau in a dual moguls final that would be mirrored later in the season at the 2013 Freestyle World Ski Championships in Voss, NOR. For Kingsbury, it was the beginning of his second moguls Crystal Globe-winning season in a row, while for Bilodeau it was the start of a triumphant comeback year after taking a sabbatical for much of the 2011-12 World Cup season.
Jeremy Cota (USA) claimed 3rd in last year's men's event, edging Marc-Antoine Gagnon (CAN) in an event dominated by North Americans, who claimed eight of the competition's top 10 spots.
Things to watch out for this season include the return of Hannah Kearney to Ruka's slopes for the first time since 2011 after missing the first two events of the 2012-13 season with an injury, and also the efforts of Kingsbury as the dominant Canadian looks to make it three in a row at the Finnish venue.
The annual Ruka event has proven itself to be a thrilling start to the moguls season time and again over the last several years, and the 2013-14 competition promises to be no different. Throw in the added incentive of Olympic qualification spots up for grabs for deserving athletes, and all the pieces are in place to make this year's showdown the best yet.