Kingsbury gunning for 14th straight win at Mont-Tremblant moguls World Cup

Mikael Kingsbury will try to keep his perfect season intact on the Mont-Tremblant moguls course Saturday in the final freestyle skiing World Cup event before the 2018 Winter Olympics.

The moguls ace from Deux-Montagnes, Que., will be gunning for a 14th consecutive victory when the world’s top freestylers return to Mont-Tremblant for the first time in 13 years. Kingsbury has not lost since he finished second to Australian Matt Graham in Calgary on Jan. 28, 2017.

He has little left to prove to the world, having already passed Americans Hannah Kearney and Donna Weinbrecht for the most career World Cup wins, men and women included, when he swept a pair of events last week at Deer Valley, Utah.

He will be going for a 49th career win.

“You know, I don’t need to try to get inside my opponents heads any more,” said Kingsbury. “They know I’m ready.

“This weekend, the main thing is to stay smart on my training runs and conserve energy. I don’t want to get hurt — look at what happened to Philippe (Marquis) — and after that I just have to do what I’ve been doing for weeks now. If I do that, I should get my 14th win in a row.”

Marquis, of Quebec City, tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during training at Deer Valley, putting his Olympic plans in grave doubt.

An injury is about all that could stop 25-year-old Kingsbury.

David Mirota, vice-president of Freestyle Canada, said the meet this weekend offers fans a chance to see a dominant athlete at work.

“At this time, I feel there is no other athlete on the planet who dominates his sport like Mikael,” said Mirota. “It is exceptional.

“You know we don’t get as much media coverage as professional sports, but when you look at his success rate and what he does on a regular basis, it’s unbelievable. We are really privileged to have an athlete of that calibre in our sport.”

Kingsbury qualified for the Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea long ago, but doing well at this World Cup may be crucial for other Canadian skiers. It is also a chance for young athletes to make themselves noticed.

“I’m thinking of Kerrian Chunlaud (of Quebec City), who reached the finals in China earlier this year,” said Mirota. “Or Gabriel Dufresne (Repentigny, Que.), who did well in Nor-Am competition last year and who has been getting World Cup experience.

“On the women’s side, there’s obviously the veteran Alex-Anne Gagnon (Repentigny) who is doing well. So I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw one or more of those athletes make the finals this weekend.”

Kingsbury’s main rival, Dmitriy Reiherd of Kazakhstan, is a distant second in the standings.

Competition has been tighter in women’s moguls.

American Jaelin Kauf leads with 420 points. Perrine Laffont of France is second with 369 and Britteny Cox of Australia has 342. Andi Naude of Penticton, B.C., who is fourth with 305 after a string of top-three finishes, will be seeking a first victory of the season. A win is worth 100 points.

Naude has reached every finals this season and is the lone Canadian woman already qualified for Pyeongchang.

It will be an emotional time for Montreal’s Dufour-Lapointe sisters — Justine, Chloe and Maxime. This week they announced that their mother has been battling cancer. Although she is in remission since August, the sisters said it has been a difficult time for the family, even if they insist it was not the cause of their sub-par performances this season.

They will all try to secure Olympic spots this weekend.

In Sochi, Russia in 2014, Justine Dufour-Lapointe won gold just ahead of Chloe. While Justine’s spot looks all-but assured, Chloe needs a good result. Maxine, currently 37th in moguls standings, is a long shot.

“It’s still mathematically possible,” Maxine said this week.

The veteran of the squad, 29-year-old Audrey Robichaud of Quebec City, is also is good position to qualify for a third Winter Games. Robichaud is the only team member to have competed the last time moguls were held in Mont-Tremblant in 2005, when Justine Dufour-Lapointe was 11.

The Olympic team is to be announced Monday.

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