Intermittent rain throughout the day couldn’t put a damper on an excellent day of skiing in Japan on Saturday, where the world’s two most dominant moguls skiers in Perrine Laffont (FRA) and Mikael Kingsbury (CAN) claimed victories at the first of back-to-back competitions at the FIS Freestyle Ski World Cup Tazawako.
Laffont back on top at favourite venue
Coming into Tazawako Laffont was fresh off her one misstep of a 2019/20 season when she has been almost perfect, as the 21-year-old had her season’s win streak snapped at six when she finished in seventh-place at the Deer Valley dual moguls event two weeks ago.
Laffont had clearly put that result well behind her on Saturday, as she took top spot in all three of the qualification, final, and superfinal stages of the single moguls competition in Tazawako, while also putting down the top scores in all three of the time, jump, and turn criteria in a superfinal run that earned her a score of 82.03 for the victory.
“I’m super happy with this win today,” Laffont said about her seventh victory in eight competitions so far this season, “Tazawako is my favourite World Cup stop. This place means so much to me and I really wanted to do well here because It’s where I got my first World Cup win. I always feel great here and today I really wanted to push the limits and I’m happy I did well.”
With the win, Laffont has all but locked up her third straight moguls crystal globe, as though there are still some skiers who could catch her mathematically-speaking, the nearest of those competitors is now more than 300 points back of her 736 points with just five competitions yet to go.
The host Japanese team looked like they might be on to a banner day after putting three athletes through to the six-skier women’s superfinal on Saturday. However, after both Rino Yamagimoto and Anri Kawamura had major mistakes in their runs, it was down to Junko Hoshino to make sure the day didn’t end with the Japanese empty-handed.
Luckily, the 30-year-old veteran was able to rise to the occasion, putting down a smooth and confident run to earn a score of 79.75 and second place on the day. The podium was her first in almost exactly five years, with her last top-3 result also a second place in Tazawako, back in 2015.
Third place in the women’s competition went to Australia’s Jakara Anthony for her second podium in the last three competitions, after she took second-place at the Deer Valley single moguls competition two weeks ago. With six top-5 results in eight competitions thus far, Anthony now sits in second on the moguls World Cup leaderboard behind Laffont with 404 points.
Kingsbury honours late teammate with eighth career Tazawako victory
On the men’s side of things, the talk coming into Saturday’s competition was all about the hoped-for battle between the only two skiers who had won at Tazawako in the previous seven competition at the venue - Japan’s own Ikuma Horishima and the inimitable Canadian Mikael Kingsbury.
However, when Horishima skied out of line after pushing hard in his qualification run and failed to make it through to finals, Kingsbury was able to settle in and show once again that he’s the greatest of all time no matter what the weather conditions, skiing as soundly as ever in the slushy snow to mirror Laffont’s performance and lead from start to end of the day.
While Kingsbury didn’t have the best time or jump scores of the men’s superfinal, his superior turns helped him earn a score of 83.06 for his eighth win in 11 competitions at Tazawako, while providing a bit of light at the end of what has been a difficult week for the Canadian team after up-and-coming skier Brayden Kuroda passed away suddenly and unexpectedly this week.
“It wasn’t easy today,” Kingsbury said before the awards ceremony, “With the rain and with the course changing a lot from qualifications to finals there was a lot of adaptation. Look at the times - my fastest run was in qualies, so it just kept getting slower and slower and you saw in the superfinal a lot of guys making mistakes.
“But this one is for my good friend who’s up there now,” Kingsbury went on, pointing towards the sky, “Brayden Kuroda, who passed away this week. I dedicate this win to him and his family.”
Second place on the day went to Kazakhstan’s Dmitriy Reikherd, who bounced back after a tough outing in both competitions at Deer Valley two weeks ago to take his second podium of 2019/20 with a strong day of skiing and a score of 81.62.
Third place on the men’s side of things saw some more positive news for the Canadian squad, as 23-year-old Laurent Dumais was able to keep his tips pointed down as others struggled in the tough conditions to earn his second career podium with a score of 73.07.
Action at Tazawako continues on Sunday with the always exciting dual moguls competition, where conditions should once again be interesting with the rain forecast to change to snow overnight.
WATCH TAZAWAKO DUAL MOGULS LIVE:
Eurosport Player, CCTV5+, L'Equipe Web, RAI Web, Polsat Sport Extra, SVT Play, NBC Sports Gold