The gnarliest skiers in the world are descending on Canada Olympic Park Saturday for the FIS Freestyle Ski World Cup moguls competition.
The tour is making its annual stop in Calgary, featuring the best male and female mogul artists on the planet, some of which, are Canadian-made.
Mikael Kingsbury is the king of the Calgary hill, after winning gold each of the six previous years.
“It’s a course where you need to be smart and I think I’m a smart skier. I always have a good plan here,” Kingsbury said. “Every year it takes me a long time to master a course. But, surprisingly, today was one of my best first days here. I’m happy that I pushed hard, missed some runs and I’m happy that I have been able to do some good top-to-bottoms.”
Thursday, Kingsbury came flying down the course, donning the yellow bib as the tour leader after three events. He earned 240 points, leaving him 58 points in front of Dmitriy Reiherd (Kazakhstan) after three events.
The Quebec native is flying high this season, capturing gold in Ruka, Finland back in December and Val Saint-Come, Que. last week.
Competing in back-to-back tour stops on Canadian soil, the Canucks are looking to keep the early season success rolling.
“We know about the course in Canada, we have the home-crowd advantage. It kind of works for real, we get a little more push and we want to do better here,” the five-foot-nine Kingsbury said.
Called the Wayne Gretzky of moguls, Kingsbury captured silver during the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics and has dominated the World Cup circuit since, winning 33 gold, 15 silver and five bronze medals.
There’s plenty of Olympic hardware on the female side. The three Lapointe-Dufour sisters – Justine, Chloe and Maxime – who nearly swept the podium in Sochi, will be in attendance. Up-and-coming Andi Naude placed third last year in Calgary and snagged a silver medal last week in Val Saint-Come. Born in Regina and living in Penticton, Naude will be competing in front of family and friends this weekend.
Justine currently sits third with 181 points, Chloe is behind her in fourth with 136, Naude is ranked sixth with 108 and Maxime holds down ninth place with 92.
First the guy skiers schussed down the course Thursday morning, followed by the girls, as they tried to get a feel for the moguls, the conditions and the size of the jumps.
“The course is well-built this year, it’s quick, the jumps are a bit small but it’s just getting better. First day you just get as much information as you can and then tomorrow I know what to do,” Kingsbury said. “I’m trying to find the run I want to do and hopefully copy and paste it.”
Even after getting kicked out of a couple moguls and not sticking some of the landings to his level of satisfaction, Kingsbury remained confident heading into Saturday.
“You want to test the course. Those mistakes you make…(they help you) not make those mistakes when you’re competing,” the 27-year-old said.
Always in any skier’s mind are the conditions. Turns out, it’s great news for spectators and athletes, as it looks like a blue-bird day with a high of 10 C at the bottom of the hill.
Smaller jumps and slushy conditions might keep Kingsbury’s top trick, the cork 1440 – a partial back flip with a quadruple twist – stored up his sleeve for safekeeping.
Until then, snow-makers and an army of volunteers will be working tirelessly as they battle increasing temperatures, sculpting the hill to fit the athlete’s standards.
The qualification rounds kickoff at 9 a.m. with the finals getting underway at 1:30 p.m.
Sunday is Community Day, where fans have a chance to meet Canadian athletes from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the bottom of the mogul run.