The FIS Freestyle Ski Moguls World Cup season kicked off on Saturday evening in fitting fashion, with France’s Perrine Laffont and Canada’s Mikael Kingsbury repeating their performance from last year on Ruka’s famous “Battery Run” moguls course to take early leads in the battle for the 2019/20 crystal globes.
After an almost eight month off-season, the long-awaited first World Cup event of the 2019/20 season didn’t disappoint. Once again the organisers delivered a top-notch venue and with perfect, mild winter conditions (compared to what’s typically expected near the arctic circle in December), and the world’s top tier of moguls skiers delivered some inspired performances. Really, the competition in Ruka had all necessary ingredients to satisfy moguls fans around the entire globe - fast skiing through snowy bumps and a slew of big trick stomped far down in the landings.
In fact, between the established skiers coming into the first event already in midseason form and a gang of youngsters trying make a name for themselves, the level of skiing and tricks difficulty like we’ve never seen before, we’re well set up for a truly exciting 2019/20 campaign.
Looking at the women’s portion of the competition, Perrine Laffont kept her winning-streak in Ruka alive, taking her second-straight win on the “Battery Run” and kicking off the new season exactly how she finished the previous one - with a shiny yellow bib on her chest.
Laffont stormed through the course in Ruka, finishing the competition on top of the podium with a score of 82.72 points for the 10th World Cup victory of her career.
“It feels great to kick off the season with the win,” smiled Laffont, “It’s been five years since my first Olympics in Sochi, and even though we don’t have any major events on the calendar in 2019/20, there’s always a lot of pressure coming into the first competition of the season. But I’ve tried not to focus on the result, but enjoy the event and just have fun skiing.”
While first place on the day by Laffont - who claimed the moguls World Cup crystal globe in each the last two years - was not unexpected, the second place finish by Japan’s Andi Kawamura has certainly come as a big surprise.
Competing in her very first World Cup event, the 15-year-old Kawamura amazed not only all the fans that gathered around the course in Ruka, but most likely also a big vast of her competitors, who were certainly not expecting such a solid result from the Japanese skier in her World Cup debut. Nevertheless Kawamura looked confident throughout the day, finishing Saturday’s competition just behind Laffont with a score of 81.26 points.
Australia’s Brittney Cox rounded out the women’s podium in third place with a score of 78.29 points for her first podium since the 2017/18 season.
Switching over to the men’s event Mikael Kingsbury stepped up to claim his 57th World Cup victory while celebrating his milestone 100th World Cup start. Coming into finals as the top qualifier, Kingsbury slipped to second place after the first final round.
However, Kingsbury typically saves his best for last, and he came back in the big finals to put down an amazing run when it counted the most, becoming the only skier to score a run in the 90s all day.
“We work hard during the summer, so it’s really nice to get a reward at the first competition,” said Kingsbury, “You want to start the season well, because there is just so much training going into preparations. The level of skiing was just amazing today and I skied at my 100%, so I’m happy it worked out. There is a lot of pressure off my shoulders now, so it’s good to set the momentum and get the yellow bib back. And yes sir, now we’re going to China.”
Finishing right behind Kingsbury in second place was Japan’s Ikuma Horishima, who also put down a solid run, but his 87.35 points were not enough to spoil the Kingsbury’s party on Saturday.
Sweden’s Walter Wallberg finished the competition in third place with a score 86.83 points, proving that last year’s break-out campaign was a sign of many good things to come for the athletic 19-year-old skier from Are.
The moguls World Cup tour now travels to China for back-to-back competitions, including the season’s first dual moguls event in Thaiwoo next weekend on December 14-15.