Laffont and Kingsbury shine on day one in Tazawako
Saturday's winners Perrine Laffont (FRA) and Mikael Kingsbury (CAN)

The FIS Freestyle Ski moguls World Cup was back in action on Saturday in Japan’s Akita prefecture ski resort of Tazawako, with Perrine Laffont (FRA) and Mikael Kingsbury (CAN) taking top spots on day one of back-to-back competitions scheduled for this this weekend in the land of the rising sun.

The fifth edition of the Tazawako moguls World Cup kicked off with style on Saturday, with all world’s best athletes on hand in Japan, a big crowd at the bottom of the course cheering on the riders, mild temperatures and nearly bluebird skies making for a perfect skiing conditions. All ingredients were in place to deliver another world class showcase and once again the moguls World Cup athletes stepped up to the plate, with day one going down in extraordinary fashion.

Coming off of a gold and bronze medal performance at the Utah 2019 World Champ, Perrine Laffont kept the momentum rolling on Saturday, storming to victory in the ladies’ competition with a high score of 82.97 points. Laffont dominated Saturday’s event in Tazawako, coming in on top in each competition phase to leave no questions about who the strongest athlete on the day. 

“It was just a perfect day for me,” said pleased Laffont after the competition, “It was the first time for me to win each round from qualifications to big final. I keep pushing myself and I’m happy it’s paying off.

It was a third win for the French skier this season to go along three runner-ups and one third place finish, giving her a perfect seven-for-seven on the World Cup podium in 2018/19.

Second place went to Jakara Anthony (AUS), who snagged her third straight spot on the World Cup podium, while Yulia Galysheva (KAZ) finished the competition in third place. 

With her third victory of the season in Tazawako, Laffont grabbed another 100 points and increased her advantage in the overall standing to 115 points over second place Anthony. Sitting just behind Anthony in third is Jaelin Kauf (USA), as the US skier finds herself 155 points of Laffont. 

The excitement level over on the men’s side was at its peak on Saturday, with progression on the menu all day long. Dropping as the second-last skier in the big final, Kingsbury stepped his game up another notch, stomping his first-ever corked 1440 in competition, which he then followed up with his typically impeccable turns in the middle section and a solid corked 720 on the bottom jump for a total score of 86.40 points.

But at this point it was all up to the last year’s double winner from Tazawako Ikuma Horishima (JPN), who watched Kingsbury’s run from top of the course. And the Japanese moguls hero gave it all he had left in the tank, also going for a corked 1440 on the first jump. Unfortunately he couldn’t quite put it down clean to his feet and crashed just a couple meters below, leaving Kingsbury with his sixth World Cup victory of the season. Still Horishima continued his run and threw down a crowd-pleasing and incredibly stylish 1080 mute grab on the bottom air, for which he was adequately awarded with a huge ovation from the Japanese crowd.

“I just wanted to make it to the super final, because I knew I was going to throw that 1440”, said Kingsbury, “I was actually happy with not going as the last one so I could put some pressure on other athletes. That was my fist 1440 in competition so I’m happy I stomped it”

“I’m on the podium with one on my best friend, and it’s special because he’s coming back from an knee injury. It’s been a long time since our last 1-2 for Canada so it’s really awesome to share that podium moment with Phil again.”

Coming back from a devastating knee injury suffered last season, Philippe Marquis (CAN) made a triumphant return to the World Cup podium on Saturday, finishing competition in second place just behind his teammate and a good friend Kingsbury. 

“It’s just unbelievable,” said Marquis, “The weather is beautiful, the course is amazing, the people, the food, everything around Japan always treats me so well.  And doing 1-2 with my boy Mik, while he threw a 1440 is unreal. I’m on cloud seven right now.”

Following his silver medal performance at the world championships in Deer Valley, Bradley Wilson (USA) rounded out the men’s podium in third for his first World Cup top-3 finish in 2018/19.

In the men’s World Cup standing Kingsbury leads the field with 645 points, with Benjamin Cavet (FRA) sitting in second with 390 points and Walter Wallberg following up in third with 361 points. At this point Kingsbury needs but one more solid performance to secure his eighth consecutive moguls World Cup crystal globe. 

The moguls action in Tazawako continues tomorrow, as the second dual moguls competition of the 2018/19 FIS Freestyle Ski World Cup season slated to go down at 13:30.