MEGEVE, France — Sunday saw the 2017-18 moguls World Cup season come to a close on the snowy slopes of Megeve, where Jaelin Kauf of the United States and Mikael Kingsbury of Canada took the final victories of the season in an exciting dual moguls competition, and Kingsbury and Perrine Laffont of France walked away the big winners on the season by taking the moguls crystal globes.
Brad Wilson of Butte, skiing for Team USA, reached the final four of the competition, losing onlyto Kingsbury in the semifinals and landing a podium spot with his third-place finish.
Laffont’s profile in France skyrocketed with her incredible gold medal win at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games in February, and that star power was on full display in Megeve as a large and boisterous crowd was on hand to cheer on her and her French teammates. In the end Les Bleus would not triumph in the competition, but with two podiums, an emotional farewell to fan favourite Anthony Benna, and Laffont’s globe win, those fans would not be disappointed.
Laffont made her way to the super final showdown with Kauf by dismissing both Chloe and Justine Dufour-Lapointe of Canada in strong showings, while Kauf had something of an easier road to the final in facing her teammate Keaton McCargo and then 11th-ranked Laura Grasemann of Germany. With No. 1- and 2-ranked women ready to face head-to-head in the final World Cup moguls run of the season, the stage was set to perfection.
One of the fastest ladies on tour, Kauf was able to pull out a small lead through top of the course and the first air, before getting right back on the gas and smoothly picking up speed through the course’s middle section. Fighting from the back, it appeared Laffont felt the pressure as she tried to make up ground on Kauf, looking for speed but ultimately losing control and skiing out of her line.
Kauf meanwhile handled the second air and finish pitch with ease, skiing across the line cleanly for the third win of her season and some sweet redemption after three straight results outside of the top 10.
“I wanted to make a little bit of a statement today and to leave things in a good please to take off from next year,” said Kauf from the finish area, “Taking the win against Perrine was definitely what I wanted today. It’s nice to finish the season on a positive. And finishing second overall is even more than I expected for the season. It was a really fun season, lots of back and forth battles, and I’m looking forward to doing even better next season.”
Though Kauf took the win, Laffont could not be caught in the race for the crystal globe, and the 19-year-old can now make the rare claim to simultaneously holding the dual moguls world championships gold, Olympic moguls gold, and the World Cup moguls overall title.
“I guess it kind of means I’m the best moguls skier in the world,” Laffont smiled from a finish area full of her fans and drenched in champagne, “I mean, it’s kind of crazy to say that, but I managed to win the Olympic gold and take the globe this season and do everything I wanted to do. And to finish the season here in France in front of my family, I just couldn’t be more happy.”
Justine Dufour-Lapointe finished the day in third, besting Grasemann in the small final for her fifth podium of the season, to finish 2017-18 just outside the top three in fourth.
Britteny Cox of Australia, while not in attendance on Sunday, finished the season ranked third overall.
The men’s competition started on an emotional note, as Kingsbury faced off against Anthony Benna in what the Frenchman had announced would be the final World Cup competition of the charismatic skier’s 13-year career.
While Benna had famously bested Kingsbury to take the gold medal at the Kreischberg 2015 world championship moguls competition, on Sunday in Megeve he was not be so fortunate, and as he crossed the line well back of Kingsbury the crowd greeted him with an extended ovation as he took a final bow.
Kingsbury then went out to oust Emerson Smith and Bradley Wilson of the United States to make his way to a final where another French favorite raced him for the final World Cup run of the season.
That skier was Ben Cavet, who had struggled to find his form somewhat throughout 2017-18 after a second-overall finish last season, but who on home soil seemed inspired in his performance once again.
After defeating Marc-Antoine Gagnon of Canada and Ludwig Fjallstrom of Sweden, Cavet was in tough against a red-hot Kingsbury. Though Cavet was able to match the Canadian’s 1080 spin off the top hit, he could not keep up with the Kingsbury’s blazing speed through the middle of the course, eventually losing form through the bumps as Kingsbury sliced ahead.
Kingsbury took the win by a score of 19-16, capping off another incredible year in which he finished no lower than second in any competition, set a new record for consecutive wins by a men’s moguls skier in January (13, dating back to the 2016-17 season), won the Olympic gold medal in Korea and won both the moguls and freestyle overall globe for the seventh straight season to pass Hannah Kearney for most moguls globe wins and inch closer to Connie Kissling’s record 10 freestyle overall titles.
“It was important for me to finish the season well,” Kingsbury said following the awards ceremony, “I think in the past couple of seasons I’ve maybe eased off a little at the end of the year after knowing I had the globe guaranteed already, not keeping up my energy. And to win here in Megeve in front of this awesome crowd is cool.
“Those records…I don’t even look at, because they’re crazy, you know?” Kingsbury said when asked about his crystal globe winning streaks, “But I know I’m not done. I’ve got more in me. Maybe I won’t dominate like I did in the past because there’s some pretty good kids coming up, but I’m feeling really good right now and I’m just going to enjoy this for a bit.
Wilson finished third on the day for his second podium of the season, making for two podiums for the USA, French, and Canadian teams in the competition.
Dmitriy Reikherd of Kazakhstan would finish behind Kingsbury in second overall on the season for the best result of his 12-year World Cup career. Behind Reikherd in third though not in competition on Sunday was Japan’s Ikuma Horishima of Japan, the 20-year-old phenom who bested Kingsbury in three straight competitions leading up to the finale in Megeve and looks to be foremost among the “kids coming up” that Kingsbury mentioned.
Canada’s Valerie Gilbert and the USA’s Casey Andringa were awarded the 2017-18 Rookie of the Year honours, while Canada would finish tops in both the moguls Nations Cup and the Freestyle overall Nations Cup yet again.
— Compiled from FIS-ski.com reports by Bruce Sayler for buttesports.com