PARK CITY Utah — On the eve of the annual Butte High-Butte Central basketball city championship renewal two graduates of the schools scored big moments on the World Cup freestyle skiing stage Wednesday evening.
Brad Wilson tallied a podium finish in men’s moguls at the World Cup event on the Deer Valley course at Park City. His third-place finish strengthened his push for another trip to the Winter Olympics. Wilson’s older brother, Bryon, made his World Cup season debut with a 15th-place finish in the same event.
Both are Olympic veterans. Brad Wilson, 25, is a 2011 Butte Central graduate and was a member of the Maroons’ tennis team during time allotted from his Team USA fresstyle skiing training. He competed in the 2014 Winter Games at Sochi, Russia, and looked to be in the thick of the competition for a medal when a costly fall took him out of the place-winnings. Bryon Wilson, 29, a 2006 graduate of Butte High, played second base for the Butte American Legion baseball program when his ski training allowed. He was the Bronze Medalist at the 2010 Winter Olympics at Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Injuries the past several seasons have kept Bryon Wilson out of many of the events. Wednesday’s run was his first on the circuit since recovering from surgery to repair ACL, MCL and meniscus damage suffered in a fall about a year ago at a World Cup race in Lake Placid, New York.
The Wednesday finished put Brad Wilson at No. 1 among the United States men’s team members and powered him into sixth place in the World Cup standings, up from 11th place last week. Bryon Wilson is 35th in the world and No. 6 among U.S. men.
One of the most storied venues in freestyle skiing saw a little more history made on its slopes on Wednesday night when Mikael Kingsbury of Canada claimed his 12th straight victory and the 47th of his career to become the all-time leader in mogul skiing wins.
However, first up in Deer Valley was the women’s competition, where 19-year-old Perrine Laffont of France, the Sierra Nevada 2017 dual moguls champion, continued to trend upwards in an ever-improving 2017-18 campaign, stepping on to the top of the podium with a impressive effort at the biggest stage on the World Cup.
Laffont found herself part of an incredibly young women’s super final in Deer Valley, where 22-year-old Keaton McCargo of the United States was the eldest of the six ladies left to drop in at the end of the night.
For much of the evening it looked as though last year’s Deer Valley single moguls winner, Morgan Schild of the United States, would be on her way to repeating in front of the huge U.S. crowd, after she took top spot in qualification and in the first round of finals. However, Laffont had other ideas, putting down the second fastest time in the super final while earning the highest turning scores by nearly two points, earning a score of 81.88 and the fourth World Cup win of her career.
“It’s crazy. I can’t believe it,” said a beaming Laffont before the awards ceremony, “I just won on the most beautiful course in the world, the hardest course in the world, and I did it. It was always my dream to win at Deer Valley, and now with my first podium here I did it.
“It’s been hard to get back to the top of the podium,” Laffont went on, “I had a complicated start to the season, with a lot of pressure. So over Christmas I was working on my mentality, trying to remember to just have fun on the course. When I enjoy skiing, I ski well.”
Though the home squad was unable to bag the win, it was still an exceptional night for the U.S. team, as Schild and Jaelin Kauf both earned podiums in strong top-to-bottom efforts, with Kauf outpacing Schild for second spot by less than a point, earning a score of 79.57 to Schild’s 78.93.
With her second-place performance, Kauf was able to snatch back the yellow World Cup leader’s bib from Britt Cox of Australia, who finished seventh on the day. Kauf now has 320 points to Cox’s 292, while Laffont sits just back with 289.
To list all the accomplishments, awards, and accolades of Mikael Kingsbury’s career will, once it is all said and done, require a professional historian to assemble and a space much longer than this to transcribe. And on Wednesday night in Deer Valley he added one of the most impressive entries yet to that lengthy list by taking his 47th career win — the most by any moguls skier in World Cup history.
Still just 25 years old, Kingsbury claimed his record-setting 47th victory in his 85th start, making for a career success rate of truly mind-boggling 55 percent — a number that may prove to be unsurpassed in World Cup ski history for an athlete with as many starts as he has. That he was able to earn the record on the legendary Champion run at Deer Valley in front of a crowd of thousands seems part of a fairytale storyline almost too good to be true.
“Could I have imagined this back when I was a rookie? No. Never, never,” Kingsbury said amidst the crowds of the Deer Valley finish area, “It was always my dream to be the best, it was always in the back of my head somewhere, but it’s just crazy…I don’t know what to say. Things have just been working. I’ve been working really hard with my teammates and my coaches and everyone and I’ve gotten to a point where I believe in myself so much in the start gate and I’ve gotten so good at controlling my emotions. I feel very clutch in competition, and it’s fun.
“The guys are skiing so strong this year. It’s putting me on the edge of what I can do every race and I’ve got to be on top of my game every time. Competing like this, when there are so many guys skiing so good…it’s not easy to win, but it’s more satisfying.”
With the win, Kingsbury now his five straight in 2017-18, and has extended his record-setting win streak to 12 straight competitions dating back to the first Deer Valley event of last season. Kingsbury is now four wins back of Hannah Kearney’s all-time record of 16 straight.
Second on the day went to Japan’s Sho Endo, who put down his most consistent day of skiing in recent memory to earn his first World Cup podium in nearly two years. And capping off the impressive day for the host US squad was Bradley Wilson, who rounded out the podium in third.
Kingsbury now has 500 points on the year to lead all of Freestyle. Second place on the moguls rankings with 280 points is Dmitriy Reikherd of Kazakhastan, while Matt Graham of Australia is in third with 220.
The women and men of the moguls World Cup headed right back at it in Deer Valley on Thursday with an identical programme to Wednesday’s, with ladies’ qualification beginning at 2:10, men’s qualification at 4:45, and finals coming out of the start gate at 7 p.m.
— Bruce Sayler contributed to this FIS Aerials and Moguls Website report for buttesports.com.