After eight competitions in five countries on three different continents in the last three months it all comes down to the final stop of the season for the FIS Freestyle Ski moguls World Cup tour, where the top ladies and men of 2018/19 will face off one last time in single and dual moguls competitions scheduled to take place at Kazakhstan’s Shymbulak Mountain Resort this weekend.
It’s the first time in history of the FIS Freestyle Ski World Cup that the tour will come to Kazakhstan, and having the 2018/19 season finals at the brand new World Cup venue at Shymbulak makes an already a highly entertaining 2018/19 season even more exciting.
On top of this, the Shymbulak Mountain Resort already appears to be a perfect venue for the season’s finals. Located just 25 km outside of Kazakhstan’s former capital and the largest city in the country, Almaty, the resort is famous for its mild climate, sunny weather and regular snow supplies throughout the season that last from November until late April.
It’s also one of the most modern and luxurious mountain resorts in Central Asia and, with the start section located at 2570 meters above the sea level, the venue at Shymbulak boast the highest elevation on the entire FIS Freestyle Ski World Cup tour. The highest peaks of the surrounding resort, meanwhile, reach over 3200 meters above sea level, and the enormous big mountain terrain surrounding the resort gives Shybulak all ingredients to soon became a new hot destination for ski enthusiast from all around the World.
Looking back at the successful moguls competition held at Shymbulak during the 2017 Winter Universiade, we’re sure that this season’s finals will deliver an extraordinary sport show to wrap up another action-packed moguls World Cup season on a high. And with plenty of sun and warm spring temperatures in the forecast for the upcoming days, it’s all shaping up like exciting four days of moguls action are ahead of us this week.
Laffont looks to lock down her second globe
The battle for the ladies’ moguls World Cup has been hotly contested this season, but it is Perrine Laffont (FRA) who will most likely be looking to clinch her second consecutive crystal globe.
Laffont has been without a doubt the most consistent rider on tour in 2018/19, finishing on the podium in each of the eight World Cup events held so far in the season, taking four victories and also adding two medals at the Utah 2019 World Championships - gold in dual moguls as well as bronze in the single moguls event.
And while Laffont success is still not 100% secure, her advantage over second in the ranking Jakara Anthony (AUS) is more than 150 points, while third in the ranking Jaelin Kauf (USA) is 175 points back of the leader Laffont. With the Aussie skier sitting out the final competitions it’s Kauf alone with a theoretical chances to keep the battle for the globe alive. That being said, Laffont now only needs 26 points over the course of two competitions to secure the overall moguls World Cup victory once the seasons concludes on Sunday, and taking into account her fantastic record this season it’s hard to see her finishing anywhere else than on top of the ranking at the end of 2018/19.
But the fact that Laffont’s success is almost certain doesn’t mean that there are no reasons to get excited for back-to-back competitions in Shymbulak. The 2018/19 season has provided plenty of top-tier action, with the level of skiing we’ve never seen before on the ladies side. And with the athletes like the above-mentioned Laffont and Kauf are on hand, with most of the top riders like Kazakhstan’s own Yulia Galysheva, Tess Johnson (USA), Chloe and Justine Dufour-Lapointe (CAN) or Laura Grasseman (GER) also expected to compete in Kazakhstan, we can’t wait to see what the new World Cup venue will deliver this weekend.
Kingsbury ready for a victory lap in Shymbulak
Moving over to the men’s side of the event, the winningest freestyle male skier of all time Mikael Kingsbury will be entering the competition in Shymbulak having already locked his eighth-consecutive moguls World Cup crystal globe last week in Japan.
On top of this, Kingsbury will also claim his eighth-straight FIS Freestyle overall globe as the best athletes across all Freestyle events in 2018/19, and yet once again that race wasn’t even close, with the second in the ranking Bastien Midol (who just clinched the Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup crystal globe) likely to finish the season with just 2/3s of the adjusted score that Kingsbury has.
Kingsbury has truly dominated yet another World Cup season, taking victories in seven out of eight competitions in 2018/19, losing the top spot only once due to a mistake at Lake Placid competition in the middle of January, while also locking down a double gold medal performance by taking the wins in both single and dual moguls competitions at the Utah 2019 world championships.
However, Kingsbury has been pushed to his limits numerous times this season by a whole group of riders, including second in the ranking Benjamin Cavet (FRA), as well as Walter Wallberg (SWE), Daichi Hara (JPN), Dmitriy Reikherd (KAZ) and Bradley Wilson (USA), to name a few.
While each of those world-class riders is capable to land on a podium in every competition, it’s probably Ikuma Horishima (JPN), who’s been the biggest threat to Kingsbury’s dominance in the recent years, as the Japanese skier is known for his “go big or go home” style of skiing. Indeed it was Horishima’s impressive skiing in Tazawako last week that forced Kingsbury to perform his first-ever corked 1440 in competition. And with Horishima also holding the biggest-scoring trick in moguls skiing in his repertoire, we hope to see progression to be on the menu one again this weekend in Kazakhstan. With much of the season’s pressure of their shoulders, there should be some really exciting and fun skiing going down this weekend in Shymbulak.
The single moguls competition is scheduled for Saturday, with qualifications starting at 9:45 LOC and finals following up at 13:30. Dual moguls competition in Shymbulak gets underway on Sunday at 11:55 LOC with the final head-to-head match-up getting out of the gate at 13:30.
CBC Sports Stream (Canada), CCTV5+ (China), Eurosport player (Europe), Eurosport 1 (Asia/Pacific), YLE Areena (Finland), L’Equipe (France), Sports (Japan), QAZSport (Kazakhstan), Polsat Sport Extra (Poland), NBC Olympic Channel & NBC Sorts Gold (USA).