The FIS Freestyle Ski moguls World Cup got right back to business on Saturday with Jaelin Kauf (USA) and Mikael Kingsbury (CAN) taking victories in the first of back-to-back competitions scheduled for this weekend in China’s prime ski resort at Thaiwoo.
Coming back to Thaiwoo for the third consecutive season, competition kicked off kicked off early Saturday the morning with the qualification round sending the top 16 ladies and the top 16 men through to the finals, where the best-of-the-best would drop in one after another to battle for the win.
In the ladies’ competition it was Jaelin Kauf who made a spectacular return to the top of the podium in Thaiwoo, where she also won one of last season’s events at the Chinese resort. The 22-year-old US skier started off with in fourth spot after the qualification round, slowly climbing the ladder by ending up in second place in the first final round, before burning all she had left in the tank with her run in the big final of the top-6 athletes. And, her effort paid off, as Kauf grabbed her career’s fifth World Cup victory.
“I’m really stoked to put down three good runs”, said Kauf, “I was working on cleaning my airs and I was able to do that. I really like the course here and I’m happy with my skiing.”
Second place on the day went to Australia’s Jakara Anthony for her first career World Cup podium, while the top qualifier and the World Cup leader Perrine Laffont (FRA) rounded out the ladies’ podium in third.
Over on the men’s side it was the king of moguls Mikael Kingsbury (CAN) who took his fifth straight win on Chinese soil despite suffering from food poisoning. Kingsbury has been unbeaten in China since the moguls World Cup made a debut here at Thaiwoo back in 2016. It was also his 51st World Cup victory, as Kingsbury increased his lead in the overall ranking to 70 points over second-overall Ben Cavet (FRA), who finished Saturday’s competition just outside the podium on fourth.
“It was a very tough day for me,” said Kingsbury, “Yesterday I got very sick and I was not feeling very well. Today I woke up with a little bit of energy, just enough to come and ski. I did a few mistakes in the first final round, but I learnt from those mistakes and I was able to put my best run and I managed to get my fifth win here at Thaiwoo.”
Sierra Nevada’s double world champion Ikuma Horishima finished in second spot on the day, trying by all measures possible to upset Kingsbury’s dominance. As the only athlete to best Kingsbury through all of last season, Horishima has the pedigree to dethrone the king, and on Saturday he was very close to doing just that.
However, despite storming to the top spot after the first round of the finals and impressing with his speed and jumping creativity - throwing down an unique octo grab with his cork 720 on the bottom air - Horishima couldn’t quite hold it together cleanly enough in the super final, and had to settle for runner-up honours.
Third place on the day went to Kazakhstan’s Dimitriy Reikherd for his career’s 15th World Cup podium spot.
The moguls World Cup action in Thaiwoo continues on Sunday with the first dual moguls competition of the season. Preliminary rounds start at 11:30 LOC with the finals coming up at 13:30 LOC.