Kearney the queen and Kingsbury the king at World Championship dual moguls
KREISCHBERG, AUT – An incredible end to the moguls portion of the Kreischberg 2015 FIS Freestyle Ski and Snowboard World Championships, with Hannah Kearney (USA) and Mikael Kingsbury (CAN) claiming redemption and dual moguls gold just one day after the pair were forced to settle for single moguls silver medals.
From the outset, it was clear that neither one of the two athletes who have dominated World Cup moguls for so long was going to be stopped in the dual moguls competition. Both Kearney and Kingsbury threw down the top qualifying runs in the respective fields, before systematically dominating each one of their runs on their way to the super finals.
In the ladies' final, however, Kearney had to face down the skier who beat her the day before, as Justine Dufour-Lapointe (CAN) was also skiing at peak level all day, qualifying a bit more than half a point behind Kearney and looking strong on her way to the final.
Out of the gate Kearney took a quick lead, forcing Dufour-Lapointe to start pushing her pace after the first jump. It was shaping up to be the fastest ladies' heat of the day, but midway through the long middle stretch Dufour-Lapointe had a minor misstep that forced her out of her line, effectively handing the duals gold to Kearney who finished her run off flawlessly.
With her pending retirement, Monday's gold medal performance was the last of her World Championships career, and her eight medal total, making her the winningest athlete in the history of the Freestyle World Ski Championships.
"Today I was just focusing on the skiing, knowing I had to ski faster," said Kearney after the competition, "(Leaving my last world championships with the gold medal) feels a lot better than leaving my last Olympics without the gold medal. Everything sort of works out and happens for a reason. I've lost a lot of duals in world championships over the years. Sometimes you just have to persevere and keep trying, and now, ten years after my first world championships, I finally get rewarded in the duals."
In the ladies' small final, the battle for bronze came down to Voss 2013 dual moguls world champion Chloe Dufour-Lapointe (CAN) and Yulia Galysheva (KAZ), and in the closest dual heat of the day it was 22-year-old Galysheva taking the last spot on the podium.
It was clear from the way the brackets for the men's finals lined up that the possibility of a Canadian sweep of the podium was a very real one, and by competition end that possibility had become a reality, as a driven Mikael Kingsbury lead his teammate Philippe Marquis and Marc-Antoine Gagnon to the first such world championships sweep since the Finns managed it in 1999.
While Kingsbury likely lost out on single moguls gold on Sunday due to a botched landing on his first jump, on Monday he would make no such mistake, skiing perfectly throughout the competition.
While Kingsbury's match-up with Marquis was in fact the marquee event of the afternoon, it was their teammate Gagnon who faced the most pressure of the day, as his small final heat against Sho Kashima (USA) would be the deciding factor in the potential sweep.
Luckily for Gagnon, Kashima lost the handle mid-way through his run, veering across the moguls course and nearly crashing into Gagnon while he was at it.
Knowing Kashima had just DNF'd behind him, Gagnon was able to ski the rest of his heat as something of a victory lap, pumping his fist over the final jump and all the way through the finish line in what was a highlight moment of Kreischberg 2015 up to this point.
From the press conference podium, flanked by his teammates, Kingsbury was beaming.
"Being world champion is amazing, but what's even better is being on the podium at the World Championships with two of your buddies, two of your friends, two of your teammates that you've worked with since you were very young. We've been thinking of this sweep for a long, long time, and we did it today. You couldn't choose a better moment. I'm so proud to be on the podium with these guys."
Following Gagnon's bronze-medal performance, Kingsbury and Marquis' run was something of a celebration of Canadian moguls skiing, with both athletes putting down fast, clean runs, Kingsbury claiming gold, Marquis silver, and the three friends and teammates able to stand on the podium together at the biggest event of the season.
Last word on the night went to Marquis, who outlined the Canadian squads plans for the evening when prompted.
"The team Canada party is going to be in a little town, I can't pronounce its name, about 30 minutes that way. We're going to start with a couple beers and then see where that leads us. And if you want to see, you're going to have to be there."