Durability is a key ingredient in Mikael Kingsbury’s domination of men’s moguls. The Canadian freestyle ski star hasn’t missed races due to injury until now.
Kingsbury is sidelined for at least the first three World Cups of the 2020-21 season after suffering a back injury while training in Ruka, Finland.
The reigning Olympic, world and World Cup champion fractured his T4 and T5 vertebrae Sunday when he landed a jump awkwardly.
Kingsbury hasn’t missed a World Cup start in his 10-year career.
Now back in Canada, the 28-year-old from Deux-Montagnes, Que., faces four to six weeks of recovery.
“I think the most painful part for me at the beginning was just knowing that I was going to miss the start of the season, especially since I’ve been able to ski for 107 starts in a row basically since the Vancouver Olympics,” Kingsbury said Thursday on a conference call with reporters.
“I was always able to compete at 100 per cent.”
Kingsbury is targeting a Jan. 28-29 return at a pair of World Cups in Calgary.
“I’m confident that I’ll be ready for Calgary,” he said. “I’m crossing my fingers, but I’m confident at the same time.”
Kingsbury owns 63 career victories in 109 starts. He’s stood on the podium 91 times.
He claimed Olympic gold in 2018 four years after taking silver behind Canadian teammate Alex Bilodeau.
Kingsbury won the season-opener in Ruka last year en route to a ninth consecutive men’s moguls World Cup title.
He’ll be in the unfamiliar position of watching his Canadian teammates compete without him Saturday, and also seeing his rivals get a head start in the World Cup standings.
“Right now, everyone told me the best thing I can do is rest,” Kingsbury said. ”The back is not very fine. It’s a little painful, but I’m in the process of healing already.
“It feels like I have a knife in my back all the time. It’s quite painful right now.”
Kingsbury says he overshot the landing of a jump in Ruka and crashed.
“I tried to protect my neck and my head and it was my back that took all the impact,” he explained. “I lost my breathe in the moment. I got up and skied down by myself.
“I went to the clinic and got it checked out. The next day it was so painful.”
Subsequent scans revealed the fractures.
“It was a hard pill to swallow to hear that, but I mean it could have been worse,” Kingsbury said.
“Right now, I’m in quarantine so I can see no one. One part that sucks about being injured, with all the COVID stuff, I can’t go get treatment right away.
“For me, it’s rest. After that, build confidence. If I feel well, I’ll be able to go back on my skis and slowly get back into a rhythm.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2020.
Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press