PARK CITY, Utah — The second of the back-to-back 2018 Deer Valley moguls World Cup competitions went down on Thursday night on the Utah resort’s famed Champion moguls run, where 21-year-old Jaelin Kauf of the United States thrilled the huge U.S. crowd with her second victory of the season and the one and only Mikael Kingsbury made it a “baker’s dozen” with his 13th straight victory.
The Wilson brothers of Butte, Montana, both competed and had good runs, though not enjoying quite the successes they experienced in the Wednesday competition. Bryon Wilson, 29, placed 24th on Thursday, only his second moguls race of the World Cup season. He debuted his season with a 15th on Wednesday. Brad Wilson, 25, took 30th place on Thursday after hitting the podium with a third-place showing on Wednesday.
Brad Wilson stayed No. 6 in the World Cup standings and tops the list of men’s contenders for Team USA with the Winter Olympics looming next month. Bryon Wilson sits 36th in the world, due almost entirely to his late start on the circuit this season after healing from serious knee injuries incurred a year ago. The spot puts him sixth on the United States men’s team.
Both brothers have recovered from knee injuries and surgeries to continue their careers, which have included a Bronze Medal in men’s moguls for Bryon Wilson at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, British Columbia, and medals contention for Brad Wilson at the 2014 Winter Olympics held in Sochi, Russia.
The Thursday women’s podium was a remix of Wednesday’s, with the USA’s Kauf and Morgan Schild, and France’s Perrine Laffont all making a return to the awards ceremony stage. This time, however, it would be the host U.S. squad’s own Kauf standing on top at the end of the night, much to the delight of the thousands-strong crowd gathered to watch the night’s competition.
All three of the evening’s top women excelled in one portion of the three judged aspects of their super finals runs, with Schild earning the best jumping scores, Laffont the best turn marks, and Kauf the best time. But when it was all added up it would be Kauf’s final tally of 81.37 that would eke ahead Laffont’s 80.38 and Schild’s 78.76.
“It was an incredible day,” said Kauf while her extensive fan club on hand looked on, “Qualifying in first place was a huge confidence booster, and then I just tried to step up my run each time. And to win here in Deer Valley in front of my friends and my family is unbelievable.
“Two days of competition in a row is a little tiring, but the course is still really fun so I enjoyed it,” Kauf went on. “The hardest part of the day was really watching Perrine go after me in the super final. I was just hoping that what I put down was better than hers. She had a solid run, but I think my speed helped in the end.”
Coming into Thursday night’s competition already in possessions of the yellow World Cup leader’s bib, Kauf was able to open up a bit of breathing room between her and her competitors, and now holds 420 points to Laffont’s 369 and Britteny Cox’s 342, with Cox coming in fourth place on the night.
In the men’s competition the story of the year repeated itself once again, as Mikael Kingsbury was able to make it a perfect six-for-six so far on the 2017-18 season, as well as 13 in a row to extend his record-setting streak (dating back to last season), and 48 career wins just a day after he broke the all-time moguls World Cup record with his 47th victory on Wednesday.
While in his past six seasons of domination Kingsbury has consistently been one of the most exceptional athletes on the FIS Ski World Cup, it appears in 2017-18 that the 25-year-old has achieved a level of superiority that should rank him amongst the greatest of all time, if he hasn’t established as much already. In event after event this season he has faced down competition continually bettering themselves with the sole focus of defeating him, and in each competition he has been almost clinical in his dismantling of the challenges.
Thursday was no different, as after Dmitriy Reikherd of Kazakhstan put down a storming run to leapfrog Matt Graham of Australia into top spot with a score of 83.66, Kingsbury simply dropped in and laced his way through the course with a run that was even better than his one from the night previous.
Earning the top jumping scores of anyone in the super final by more than two points, and the top turn scores by more than two points as well, it didn’t matter that he had only the third-fastest run of the evening (by just .16 of a second). Kingsbury’s final score would be 88.80 – fully five points ahead of Reikherd.
“On top of the course I kept hearing the times…for Ikuma (Horishima of Japan, fourth place), 24-something, for Sacha (Theocharis of France, sixth place) 24-something, and I thought ‘Oh man, these guys are going for it.’ And then Matt made no mistakes, and Dmitriy the same, and suddenly all those guys are making me work very hard for this.
“For sure there was a little bit less pressure today. I’m not skiing for the (all-time moguls wins) record any more. That’s behind me and now I’m just getting ready for the Olympics. Tonight was the kind of run I want to do there and it was close to the level I want for the Games.”
Reikherd’s second-place result would be his fourth of the season, and were it not for Kingsbury the strong Kazakh skier would be on his way to the first-ever freestyle crystal globe for his nation. As it stands, however, Reikherd’s 360 points have him in a reasonably comfortable position ahead of third-place Graham’s 280, but well out of reach of Kingsbury’s perfect 600.
With Deer Valley now in the rearview, it’s off to Kingsbury’s home province for competition next weekend, as the FIS Freestyle moguls World Cup tour moves to Tremblant in the province of Quebec, Canada. While the added pressure of performing in front of a crowd that is sure to be expectant of a brilliant performance from their native son may be enough to finally expose some cracks in Kingsbury’s armour, something about the swagger with which “The King” is carrying himself these days suggests that should not be the case.
— Bruce Sayler contributed to this FIS Aerials & Moguls Website report for buttesports.com.