Canada’s Mikael Kingsbury is widely regarded as the best moguls skier of all time. He capped a majestic 2016/17 season by winning a sixth consecutive overall FIS Freestyle Ski World Cup title and a sixth straight small crystal globe. Despite all his success, he is yet to win an Olympic gold, as he was pipped to the top of the podium at Sochi 2014 by compatriot Alexandre Bilodeau.
“I’d put this season down as the best of my career,” said Kingsbury, whose recent winning streak includes a victory in a World Cup event in PyeongChang.
“I peaked at the right time. I also won the Olympic test event in Bokwang, which was really important for me. I’ve been consistent throughout the season. It’s great to have a good winter behind me and I’m really pumped up about what lies ahead.”
A near-perfect season
“To put it simply, Kingsbury dominates his chosen sport like few other athletes on the planet,” says the International Ski Federation (FIS) in its biography of the Canadian legend.
That domination did not extend to the 2017 FIS Freestyle World Ski Championships in Sierra Nevada (ESP), however. Kingsbury had to settle for a bronze in the moguls, an event won by new Japanese star Ikuma Horishima.
Nor was the Canadian able to add to his collection of seven world championship medals – two of them golds – in the dual moguls. Beaten by Horishima in the last 16, he looked on as the Japanese went on to complete a golden double.
“Ikuma was absolutely amazing in Sierra Nevada,” said a gracious Kingsbury. “He owned the piste and the snow conditions. But I’m not the type to look behind me and worry about him. I know he’s a good skier. I just focus on what I’ve got to do.
“We’ve skied in PyeongChang this year and it’s a run that I really like. And it counts for a lot when you see a run and you know that you’re capable of performing well. It’s one of the runs that I’ve enjoyed most this year; it’s well built and it has a good drop. I can really express myself on it. Winning here has given me a lot of confidence for the Games. It’s perfect.”
The ultimate goal
“The World Cup, world championships and the Olympic Games: all of them are important for me,” added Kingsbury. “Every time I find myself at a start gate I give it my all. The Olympic Games is just one day in four years. It’s not necessarily a question of finding out who the best skier is, but you do have to be able to perform at your very best. Olympic gold - it’s the biggest thing in sport. I’ve always said that, because it’s the one title I haven’t won.”
The Canadian was the new sensation of moguls when he went to Sochi in 2014, but came off second best to his team-mate and defending champion Bilodeau, who promptly retired after winning a second straight gold.
“Canadian freestyle skiing has a big future. There are a lot of youngsters coming through and I’m delighted to share the podium with one of them,” said Bilodeau after his win. “When I go, Mikael’s going to win every competition he enters.”
Four years and four large crystal globes later, Kingsbury says: “It was quite an experience for me to take part in my first Games…I know exactly what Olympic pressure feels like and I know what to expect.
“I’m more mature and I know what I need to do. It’s important to have a game plan and to have fun when I’m skiing. That’s when I’m at my best.”
Kingsbury is the latest in a long line of Quebec-born mogul stars. Jean-Luc Brassard started by winning Olympic gold at Lillehammer 1994. The baton was later picked up by Bilodeau, a two-time Olympic champion at Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014 and sister act Justine and Chloé Dufour-Lapointe, who scored a one-two at Sochi 2014.
As he prepares for the most important competition of his career to date, Kingsbury will be hoping to join them as an Olympic gold medallist.