Tazawako, JPN - A big weekend of back-to-back competitions in Tazawako (JPN) closed with an exciting dual moguls competition on Sunday, where 20-year-old Jaelin Kauf (USA) claimed the first win of her young career in the ladies’ event and Mikael Kingsbury (CAN) rattled off his fifth-straight victory in men’s competition while officially locking down the 2016/17 moguls World Cup title in the process.
In just her second full season and 16th competition on the World Cup tour, Kauf has already established herself as one of the fastest ladies’ in the world on a moguls course. This hard-charging style lends itself especially well to dual moguls competition, where the head-to-head nature of the challenge often pushes athletes outside of their comfort zone and forces them to make mistakes. With her win, Kauf now has three World Cup podiums, and all three are in the duals, proving that the high-intensity format suits her just fine.
Kauf went toe to toe with Yulia Galysheva (KAZ) in a hard-fought big final that resulted in the closest ladies’ finals score we’ve seen this season, with judges scoring the matchup 19-16 in favour of Kauf.
For Kauf, both of whose parents were champions on the Pro Moguls Tour, the moment was sweet.
“I can’t really describe how I’m feeling right now,” said Kauf. “I was just pushing the speed all day and trying to beat the other girls down the course. I wasn’t expecting this to happen, but it’s amazing and I couldn’t be happier.”
While losing out on such a close battle in the final was surely disappointing for Galysheva, Sunday’s result was the best of the season for the 24-year-old who finished 2015/16 ranked 4th overall, but who has struggled this season.
Third place on the day went to Olivia Giaccio (USA), as the 16-year-old in her first full season of World Cup competition capped a great day for the US ladies’ squad by capturing her first World Cup podium in just her 9th start. Giaccio bested last season's moguls crystal globe winner Chloe Dufour-Lapointe (CAN) easily after Dufour-Lapointe skied out of her line just before the bottom air bump.
While she wasn’t part of the big finals picture Sunday, Australia’s Britteny Cox was still an important figure of the competition, as the 22-year-old earned herself a 9th-place finish while making official what has already been known by most for a long time; she will claim the 2016/17 moguls Moguls World Cup title.
Cox’s achievement is the biggest so-far in what has been huge season for the Aussie snow sports contingent, with her’s being the first moguls globe for the nation since Dale Begg-Smith did it in 2009/10.
However, because of her season-low finish on Sunday, she was unable to lock up the Freestyle overall globe. Though it would take an unlikely sequence of events for her to lose her lead atop the overall standings - back-to-back wins by ski cross athlete Marielle Thompson (CAN) and a pair of results with zero or next-to-zero points for Cox would do it - the pressure is still on Cox to perform at next week’s World Cup finals.
Kingsbury wins fifth straight event, sixth-straight globe
Over on the men’s side it was a man who needs no introduction doing again what he has done so many times in his storied career, as Mikael Kingsbury took his fifth win in a row and seventh of the season to lock up what will be his sixth-straight moguls title. And, as is the case with Cox, he is all but assured of taking the Freestyle overall globe at season end as well, which would also be his sixth-straight such title.
Kingsbury squared off against second-ranked Ben Cavet (FRA) in the big final on Sunday and the heavyweight matchup did not disappoint, with both athletes throwing down identical jump combos and Cavet battling gamely to match Kingsbury’s relentless speed through the middle section of the course.
In the end, the men’s final ended up even more closely scored than the ladies’, with the 21-19 result swinging in Kingsbury’s favour. And while it’s been a foregone conclusion for some time now, the win officially put Kingsbury out of reach of Cavet or any other athlete in the race for this season’s moguls World Cup titles. With one more strong performance next week in China, Kingsbury will again take home a pair of crystal globes.
“That was one of the craziest duals days I’ve had,” said Kingsbury, “But I felt really good today. I skied some strong duals against Dmitriy (Rieherd) and Daichi (Hara) in the blue course, which wasn’t the one I skied yesterday in singles. And then for the final I was back on the red course and it was all good.
“Now I just want to get some good quality skiing in China and then head to Spain on a mission to win two gold medals (at the world championships).”
Cavet’s performance gave him two podiums on the weekend and continued a remarkable season that has seen the 23-year-old Frenchman miss the podium only three times in nine competitions.
Third on the day went to Matt Graham (AUS), as the Australian returned to the podium for the first time since his victory in Calgary back in January by besting Dmitriy Reiherd (KAZ) in another closely fought matchup. With the performance, Graham was able to open up a little more breathing room between himself and Philippe Marquis (CAN) in the battle for third place on the moguls leaderboard.
The moguls tour now moves to Thaiwoo, China, for the moguls World Cup finals which will feature another weekend of single and duals competitions on February 25-26, 2017.
Photos (Hiroyuki Sato/Satton Press)