While the temperature was far less frigid than the last time we saw moguls action on Deer Valley’s world-renowned Champion Run moguls course back at the Utah 2019 world championships, falling snow and blustery winds made for exceptionally challenging conditions throughout the day at Thursday’s FIS Freestyle Ski Moguls World Cup Deer Valley Intermountain Healthcare Freestyle International. However, come time for finals, the wind died down as the energy ramped up, and the world’s best in the bumps put on a thrilling show at the world’s best moguls venue, with Perrine Laffont (FRA) and Ikumu Horishima (JPN) taking the wins.
The first of three-straight nights of action at the freestyle mecca of Deer Valley, Thursday night’s competition set the tone for the 18th season of World Cup competition at the venue, with the 16 women and 16 men of the finals charging hard in the midst of the winter storm and the fans on hand as enthusiastic as ever at the base of Champion Run.
Laffont came into competition a perfect five-for-five in World Cup action so far in 2019/20, and on Thursday night she kept her perfect season going with an outstanding final run.
While she didn’t lead through either the qualification round or the small final, come time for the superfinal Laffont was ready to step it up on the imposing Champion Run moguls course at Deer Valley, putting down the second-fastest run of the top six while tying Jakara Anthony (AUS) for the best turning scores of the evening for a total score of 79.33.
“It’s always complicated in Deer Valley,” Laffont smiled after the awards ceremony, “It’s the hardest course we have on the World Cup. It’s so super steep, it’s so long, and to win here, it really means something. It really means you’re a good skier.
“I was so tired at the end of last season, so I was trying to come into this season with less pressure on myself” Laffont continued when asked about her remarkable season thus far, “With no world championships, and no Olympics, I changed my training to make it easier on myself, not doing the stuff I didn’t like to do, train in a different way, and I think I found something that really works for me.”
The top ranked skier after the small final, Anthony put down another strong showing as the final woman to drop of the evening, with the best air scores of the night and the above-mentioned tie with Laffont on turning scores offset somewhat by her slower time, with the 21-year-old Aussie finishing with a final score of 78.49.
Anthony just edged Justine Dufour-Lapointe (CAN), as the Canadian finished with a score of 78.14 and her ninth career podium at Deer Valley.
With the win, Laffont extended her lead atop the moguls World Cup standings, with a perfect 600 points - nearly double second-ranked Anthony’s 304.
Over on the men’s side of things, Ikuma Horishima put on a steadily more impressive performance throughout the day on Champion Run, stepping things up on every pass until his superfinal performance, which should be remembered as one of the most impressive and highest-scoring runs seen in recent memory on what is the moguls World Cup’s biggest stage.
While he was, somewhat uncharacteristically, not the fastest skier in the six-man superfinal, Horishima’s massive airs and near-perfect turns put him a cut above even the great Mikael Kingsbury (CAN) on Thursday evening, and his final score of 89.17 had him nearly two points clear of the Canadian once the dust had settled.
“Today was so exciting,” said Horishima, “I was a little bit tired, because Deer Valley is a very long course, the most difficult course. But in the final I put down a great run, and I’m very proud and very happy.”
After putting down the highest score in the small final Kingsbury - an 11-time Deer Valley winner, including double Utah 2019 world championships golds last season - was the last man with a chance to bump Horishima off top spot podium on Thursday evening. And though Kingsbury charged hard with the fastest time of the night, a couple of small bobbles on the way down and slightly less amplitude on his jumps would see him forced to settle for second place with a score of 87.37.
Third place on the evening with a performance to remember was Felix Elofsson (SWE), as the 24-year-old scored his first career World Cup podium on the most challenging course in moguls skiing. Elofsson finished with a score of 81.18 to make good on the promise shown by his fourth-place finish at Tremblant (CAN) earlier this season.
Kingsbury remains in top spot on the men’s World Cup rankings with total of 560 points, while Horishima sits in second with 465 points - 95 back of Kingsbury.
Action in Deer Valley continues on Friday evening with aerials competition, while we get back to moguls competition on Saturday evening with grand finale dual moguls showdown.