Freestyle skiing competitions at the Utah 2019 FIS Snowboard, Freestyle & Freeski World Championships closed out in epic fashion on Saturday night at one of the greatest venues in skiing, with a hugely entertaining dual moguls event ending with Perrine Laffont (FRA) and Mikael Kingsbury standing on top of the podium with gold medals in hand.
The snow rolled into Deer Valley just before preliminary heats got underway on Saturday afternoon, giving an already snowy venue an even more ethereal air as finals began under the lights on Saturday evening.
There was huge anticipation in the air for the ladies’ big final, with reigning PyeongChang 2018 Olympic champion and Sierra Nevada 2017 dual moguls gold medallist Laffont lined up against local hero and last season’s Deer Valley single moguls World Cup winner Jaelin Kauf of the USA.
Unfortunately for Kauf, Laffont was back on top of her game on Saturday night after taking bronze at the previous night’s Utah 2019 single moguls competition, with the French skier emerging victorious in the tightest of duals showdowns, scoring 84.74 points to Kauf’s 82.59 to defend her title of dual moguls world champion.
“It’s crazy to win back-to-back golds,” said Laffont after the awards ceremony, “I was a little bit disappointed and frustrated after last night, but today I just kept pushing myself in every run. I was tired, but all the French crew was here to push me and tell me ‘Perrine, you got it, just keep doing your skiing and it’s going to go well.”
“And Deer Valley is always a good show, so when you perform here it’s always the best victory ever. I couldn’t be more proud of myself. I’m not always proud, but tonight I am.”
Laffont’s gold medal on Saturday night came almost one year to the day that she won gold in Korea, capping an incredible 12 months for the 20-year-old, one in which she also claimed last season’s crystal globe as the top ladies’ moguls World Cup athlete of 2017/18.
Kauf’s silver medal was still a sweet bit of redemption after the 22-year-old finished in a disappointing sixth place in the six-lady superfinal on Friday, and her medal was one of three medals the host US squad won on the evening to thrill the home crowd.
Bronze in the ladies’ competition went to Kauf’s teammate and close friend Tess Johnson, as she was able to best Friday night’s single moguls winner Yulia Galysheva (KAZ) in the ladies’ small final.
In the men’s competition, Canada’s Mikael Kingsbury continued to find ways to add new chapters to his indelible career, winning the Utah 2019 dual moguls gold to go along with his single moguls world championship title from the previous evening, to become the double-world champion for the first time in his career.
But, perhaps even more importantly and incredibly than that, Kingsbury’s win moved him ahead of Edgar Grospiron (FRA) to the top of the list of the most all-time men’s Freestyle world championships gold medals, and at the same time moved him ahead of Hannah Kearney (USA) for the most total world championships medals won by any athlete in Freestyle history.
Kingsbury’s competitor in the big final was Bradley Wilson, one of the biggest fan-favourites of the night, and the 26-year-old World Cup veteran battled gamely against the greatest moguls skier of all time right to the very end of their big final heat, only to come up just short in the end, earning a score of 84.69 to Kingsbury’s 87.62.
“For sure I wanted to win tonight, but I wasn’t thinking about that,” said Kingsbury of his final run, “I just wanted to stick to my game plan. I know that all day I’ve been the cleanest skier on the course, so in the final I just tried to stay clean. I knew I had a bigger air package on the top air than Brad, so I knew I just needed to ski clean and be not too far behind him. Brad is one of the fastest if not the fastest moguls skier in the world, but he made some tiny mistakes, so I made sure there was no choice for the judges to take points away from me. I knew he would be ahead of me, but I saw from the corner of my eye he made a little mistake just before the bottom air and I knew the win was going to be mine.”
Still, Wilson’s runner-up performance gave him two straight world championships dual moguls silver medals, matching his result from two years ago in Sierra Nevada 2017 and capping off a huge three-medal night for the USA.
Third place and the bronze medal went to Daichi Hara of Japan, matching his result from Friday’s single moguls competition and from the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games last year, and reestablishing the 21-year-old as one of the best high-pressure moguls skiers in the world.