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Smirnova and Kingsbury claim dual moguls titles in Almaty
© Andrey Kulagin

The moguls portion of the 2021 FIS Freestyle Ski World Championships in Almaty (KAZ) closed on Tuesday with one of the wildest and most entertaining competitions we’ve seen this season, where Anastasiia Smirnova (RSF) came through with another impressive performance and claimed the gold medal in the women’s competition, while Mikael Kingsbury (CAN) yet once again put his name into history books with his second Almaty 2021 world champs title in two days. 

In the women’s competition the youth was on the rise again, and this time to an extent that only a very few would expect. After an exciting day of tight head-to-head competition it was Monday’s single moguls bronze medallist Smirnova stepping things up a notch to claim gold in the dual moguls event on Tuesday.

The 18-year-old Smirnova kept her momentum going and once again impressed with some flawless skiing throughout the day, keeping things clean in the bumps sections while throwing down some progressive tricks on the jumps. Her path to victory was no easy one, however, as she faced some tough match-ups against some very decorated mogul skiers, including Justine-Dufour Lapointe (CAN) and Tess Johnson (USA), as well as another young gun Anastassiya Gorodko (KAZ) on her way to the big final.

In the big final Smirnova faced her 17-year-old teammate Viktoriia Lazarenko, and while it was Lazarenko who stormed through the Almaty course with an incredible pace and sending a massive bottom air, she did make a couple of mistakes in her turns through the middle section. So, though Smirnova wasn’t as fast as her teammate, she kept it clean, smooth and stylish throughout the whole run, and there was simply no doubt who would walk away victorious from that big final heat. 

With a final score of 83.08 points Smirnova claimed the gold medal and became the third youngest World Champion in history of mogul skiing. 

Lazarenko finished the competition with the World Championships silver medal, for what is also without a doubt the biggest success in her young career.

Rounding out the women’s podium with a bronze medal was Anastassiya Gorodko of the host nation Kazakhstan, who similarly to Smirnova and Lazarenko also came through with a remarkable, yet totally unpredicted performance. The 15-year-old, who won the 2019/20 Europa Cup general ranking, took her victory in a small final battle against Sofiane Gagnon (CAN), making for the third World Championships medal so far for the home Kazakh squad in Almaty 2021.  

Things were pretty exciting over on the men’s side as well, with a couple of spectacular crashes, but most of all plenty of supremely tight heat that made it as exciting as only dual moguls can get.

Similarly to what we we saw in the individual moguls event, in duals it was the living legend Mikael Kingsbury storming to his second victory in as many days, as the “King of Moguls” added another chapter to the history books of freestyle skiing by becoming the first male moguls skier ever to successfully defend both World Championship moguls titles.

Kingsbury once again was on a mission on Tuesday, besting the likes of Olli Penttala (FIN), Dmitriy Reikherd (KAZ) and Ikuma Horishima (JPN) while climbing his way up the competition ladder to the final heat of the day, where he would face off against his longtime friend and rival Matt Graham of Australia. 

And what a big final it was, with both athletes opting for a 1080 straight off the top jumps, and then racing through the middle section to simultaneously send it straight into stratosphere on the bottom jump. While Kingsbury experienced some unusual problems in the air, it was Graham who couldn’t quite put down this one to his feet and crashed into the finish line, leaving Kingsbury with his second gold medal in two days. The victory on Tuesday also meant that Kingsbury has now six World Championships gold medals, and 11 medals in total.

“Winning two back-to-back World Cups is difficult, but winning two back-to-back World Championships is even more challenging,” said Kingsbury, “It’s insane to know that I have been able to achieve this feat once again.”

“The course and the conditions were very difficult today, especially the red course. I lost a little bit of balance before the second jump but was able to absorb it well in the landing to cross the finish line. I have to agree that today was not everyone’s best skiing. It was the kind of day where if you are able to cross the finish line, you have a chance to win.”

Ikuma Horishima (JPN) claimed bronze, after coming victorious against Branden Kelly (CAN) in the small final match-up, as the 2017 double World Champion from Sierra Nevada added his third world champs top-3 finish to his record. 

The FIS Freestyle Ski World Championships acton continues tomorrow with the individual aerials competition. Women’s qualifications are set to start at 9:40 with men following up at 12:25. Finals are slated to go down later in the afternoon at 15:00 (10:00 CET). 

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