Dual moguls World Cup rolls into Airolo

09 March 2018 07:47
Training action at Airolo
Training action at Airolo -
FIS/Buchholz

Airolo (SUI) - With only one competition on the FIS Freestyle Skiing World Cup schedule this weekend all eyes are on Airolo (SUI), where the men and ladies of the moguls World Cup are set to square off in dual moguls action at the penultimate event of the 2017/18 season this Saturday. With the battle for the ladies’ crystal globe coming right down to the wire, a surprising winning streak unfolding on the men’s side, and spots for next weekend’s World Cup finals in Megeve (FRA) still up for grabs, there’s plenty left to be decided before another moguls World Cup season comes to a close in 10 days time. 

 

Laffont leads, but five others still in the crystal globe hunt

The 2017/18 ladies’ moguls crystal globe race is the tightest we’ve seen in a recent memory. While PyeongChang 2018 Olympic gold medallist Perrine Laffont (FRA) currently leads the way with 527 points, five other athletes are mathematically still in the hunt, including the USA’s Jaelin Kauf and Tess Johnson, Canada’s Justine Dufour-Lapointe and Andi Naude, and Kazhakstan’s Yulia Galysheva. Current second-ranked skier Britt Cox of Australia will not be competing in the final two competitions of the season. 

With her 461 points putting her 66 back of the leader, Kauf currently stands the best chance of reeling in Laffont through the final two competitions of the season. Owner of the yellow leader’s bib up until last weekend’s back-to-back competitions in Tazawako (JPN), Kauf has stumbled somewhat in recent weeks, with three straight results outside of the top-10. However, with two victories and four podiums on the season she has proven herself more than capable of standing amongst the best in the world, and the 21-year-old will be looking to reassert that fact this weekend in Switzerland. 

 

 

After taking PyeongChang 2018 silver and a victory, a runner-up, and a fifth-place result in her last three World Cup competitions, Dufour-Lapointe is perhaps the hottest athlete on tour - besides Laffont. However, the 23-year-old has struggled in dual moguls competitions somewhat in the past couple of seasons - including a 13-place finish at last weekend’s Tazawako duals - and she’ll have to bear down and refocus in order to put those past results behind her. 

Which brings us to Johnson, who is fresh off the first victory of her career at that same Tazawako DM competition. Riding high after besting Cox last Sunday the first World Cup dual moguls super final of her career, Johnson could be tough to top again on Saturday as she rides the wave of last weekend’s success.

 

Horishima winner of three straight coming into Airolo

On the men’s side, Canada’s Mikael Kingsbury is once again in a position to cruise through the final few events of the season safe in the knowledge that the moguls and the Freestyle overall crystal globe will be in his grasp when all is said and done next weekend in Megeve. This will be the seventh-straight season in which Kingsbury has owned the World Cup double, and when combined with his gold medal at PyeongChang 2018 and the record 13-straight wins mark he set earlier this season, he has built quite the convincing case in towards being declared perhaps the greatest men's Freestyle athlete ever. 

However, Kingsbury is currently riding a less illustrious streak than the kind is he is used to, as for the past three World Cup competitions he has found himself held off of his typical place on top of the podium as he has been forced to play second fiddle to Japan’s Ikuma Horishima in all three of those events.

 

 

 

Horishima burst into the conversation last season with an unprecedented double gold medal performance at the Sierra Nevada 2017 world championships, but up until this season World Cup success had largely eluded him. Now, however, with his three straight wins added to three other top-10s scored earlier in the season, the 20-year-old has moved up to third overall on the World Cup rankings behind Kingsbury and Dmitriy Reikherd (KAZ), and could theoretically overtake Reikherd for second before the season is over. 

With his nearly unmatchable speed combined with a deep trick repertoire and a seeming imperviousness to pressure, Horishima is positioning himself to be a powerhouse on the men’s moguls World Cup circuit for years to come. 

With podiums in all but two competitions this season Reikherd remains the most consistent athlete in moguls not named Kingsbury, and can be counted on to be in the mix once again on Saturday as he looked to finally break out from underneath his rivals and add a win to his four second-place and three third-place results in 2017/18.

With a handful of the top-ranked men sitting out this weekend, the door could be open for some perhaps less-expected names to make a run at the podium in Airolo. Watch out for the French duo of Sacha Theocharis and Ben Cavet, US skiers Bradley Wilson and Casey Andringa, or someone from the large Scandinavian contingent lead by 17-year-old Walter Wallberg to step up and make some noise on Saturday.

This weekend’s event will be the first World Cup in Airolo since the moguls World Cup last visited in 2004, though the resort has hosted a multitude of Europa Cups, a Swiss national championship, and the 2007 junior world championships in that time. Competition on Saturday begins with preliminary rounds at 12:35, followed by the head-to-head knockout finals beginning at 14:45.

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