Moguls World Cup finals take to Thaiwoo
Thaiwoo, CHN - The 2016/17 FIS Freestyle moguls World Cup comes to a conclusion this weekend, with a stacked program of moguls and dual moguls action taking to the purpose-built slope at the newest venue on tour in Thaiwoo, China, on Saturday and Sunday.
Thaiwoo is set to be one of the feature venues for the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games and already, five years out from the big event, the resort is looking primed, keen, and up to the task.
While there have been moguls World Cups held in China in the past - with Beida Lake hosting competition in 2010 and 2012 - the men and ladies of the moguls tour haven’t seen anything quite like Thaiwoo before, where the specially constructed moguls course is serviced by its own lift and bookended by a spectator area that includes a permanent VIP lodge.
The course itself features a perfect continuous pitch and tight moguls that should lead to some exciting competition, especially come time for duals when athletes will really be pushing the pace. Reports thus far on the course from athletes are positive, and everything is lined up for an excellent event this weekend.
Coming into competition in Thaiwoo it’s Britt Cox (AUS) and Mikael Kingsbury (CAN) riding high after securing their respective ladies’ and men’s World Cup titles last weekend in Tazawako (JPN), with Cox taking a win in the moguls and an eighth-place result in the dual moguls, and Kingsbury winning both competitions to extend his current streak to five straight wins.
While Kingsbury is an old hand at this now, on his way to an incredible sixth-straight title, Cox’s crystal globe win will be her first. It's been a truly remarkable season for the 22-year-old, who scored her first career victory at the season-opener in Ruka and then went on to tally six victories and one third-place result in nine competitions up to this point in the season.
We already know Cox’s dominance will be rewarded with the moguls crystal globe, but should she continue to ski as she has all season this weekend in Thaiwoo she will also walk away from 2016/17 with the FIS Freestyle Skiing overall crystal globe - the first for her country since Dale Begg-Smith did it in 2006/07.
The battle for second and third on the overall moguls World Cup continues to rage, with four ladies still truly in the running - Perrine Laffont (FRA) with 475 points, Justine Dufour-Lapointe (CAN) with 456, Chloe Dufour-Lapointe (CAN) with 395, and Andi Naude (CAN) with 384.
Last season Chloe and Justine went 1-2 on the overall rankings, while Laffont took the bronze medal at the end of the season. Though the globe is out of reach for all of the ladies listed, competition will be fierce for the next-best reward.
Kingsbury set for sixth-straight moguls and Freestyle overall sweep
As with Cox, Kingsbury has all but sewn up the men’s Freestyle overall globe, which would make it his sixth-straight season of sweeping the moguls and overall titles and giving him the most overall titles for any man in FIS Freestyle history.
However, while it's extremely unlikely, the numbers tell us that two catastrophic results for Kingsbury in Thaiwoo combined with two top performances by aerials skier Qi Guangpu (CHN) in his final two events could result in the unthinkable, so Kingsbury will be looking to finish things off early with a strong result in the Thaiwoo single moguls competition.
Behind Kingsbury, Ben Cavet (FRA) with 512 points, Matt Graham (AUS) with 465, Philippe Marquis (CAN) with 427, and Dmitriy Reiherd (KAZ) with 372 all have a fighting chance for the silver or bronze season medals.
Cavet has been one of the most consistent athletes on tour this season, with six podiums in nine events, while Graham can lay claim to being one of the few skiers in the last several seasons to beat Kingsbury on a day when the Canadian was at the top his game, as he did when taking the victory in Calgary in January. Both Cavet and Graham could be hard to catch.
However, Marquis has been coming on strong in the second half of the season, and Reiherd owned the yellow leader’s bib for a period early in the season, so the final two competitions this weekend in Thaiwoo should prove compelling viewing no matter which way you slice it.
Saturday’s single moguls competition gets underway with ladies qualifications 10:00, men’s qualifications at 11:45, and finals at 13:30 (all times local). Meanwhile, Sunday’s dual moguls competition will begin with preliminary heats at 12:05, followed quickly by the final competition of the 2016/17 FIS Freestyle moguls World Cup season beginning at 13:30.
Thaiwoo data page (live scoring & results)
Ladies’ Freestyle overall rankings (as of Feb 23, 2017)
Men’s Freestyle overall ranking (as of Feb 23, 2017)