It's a winter sport weekend
where Europe comes to North America. For a change, the World Cup events in a few sports will be contested on this side of the Atlantic.
In bobsleigh/skeleton, Mellisa Hollingsworth, Lyndon Rush and the rest of the crew will race on the fastest track in the world at Whistler. Ski Cross has Chris Del Bosco and the Canadians on familiar terrain at Blue Mountain on the shores of Georgian Bay near Collingwood, Ont.
But perhaps the brightest light, moguls skier Mikael Kingsbury, is on the brink of something very big
in Deer Valley, Utah. Kingsbury has a chance to set the record for the most consecutive World Cup wins by a male freestyle skier - ever. Jeremy Bloom of the United States won six straight back in 2005, but Kingsbury is knocking on the door and with victories in the individual and dual events he could soar into the spotlight.
Even if Kingsbury doesn't turn the trick, he's had a remarkable season. And the amazing thing is, he's only 19 years of age.
"Yes, Mikael is tearing it up," says two-time Olympic medallist Jenn Heil from Montreal. "He already knows what he needs to do to perform to a high degree. Normally this takes much longer and comes from trial and error."
Indeed, Kingsbury has vaulted ahead of 2010 Olympic gold medallist Alexandre Bilodeau to the head of the freestyle pack. While Bilodeau will make a rare appearance at Deer Valley, he's using the season to concentrate on things other than competition.
Olympic freestyle medals by Canadians
Since the introduction of freestyle to the Olympic program in 1992, skiers from Canada have won nine medals, including four gold. That's second to athletes from the United States, which has produced 14 medals in Olympic competition.
1994 Lillehammer: Jean-Luc Brassard, men's moguls, gold
1994 Lillehammer: Philippe Laroche, men's aerials, silver
1994 Lillehammer: Lloyd Langlois, men's aerials, bronze
2002 Salt Lake: Deirdre Dionne, women's aerials, bronze
2002 Salt Lake: Veronica Brenner, women's aerials, silver
2006 Turin: Jennifer Heil, women's moguls, gold
2010 Vancouver: Ashleigh McIvor, women's ski cross, gold
2010 Vancouver: Alexandre Bilodeau, men's moguls, gold
2010 Vancouver: Jennifer Heil, women's moguls, silver
Meantime, Kingsbury is building on a string of successes, which saw him win silver and bronze medals at last year's world championships as well as score eight podium results in the 2011 season. He's clearly the latest in a long line of great freestyle skiers out of Quebec.
"Certainly a culture of success with role models for the next generation continues the cycle of developing champions," Heil says of her adopted home province.
The Spruce Grove, Alta., native soared to prominence once she immersed herself in the freestyle environment of Quebec in advance of her gold medal victory at the 2006 Torino Olympics. It's a milieu that has produced not only Bilodeau but before him 1994 Lillehammer gold medal moguls skier Jean-Luc Brassard. This is in addition to the "Quebec Air Force" - decorated aerialists Nicolas Fontaine, Lloyd Langlois and Philippe Laroche.
"Quebec freestyle skiing has created a great structure for its athletes with consistent and high quality coaching that reinforces the value that hard work is critical input when it comes to success," Heil says.
But there's something more to Mikael Kingsbury. The kid who calls Oka, Que., home seems to make the bumpy road that moguls can be into a smooth ride. He's along the lines of American Olympic champion Hannah Kearney, who has won an amazing 12 consecutive World Cup individual competitions.
Kingsbury appears to have it figured out.
"Mik is a naturally gifted athlete," Heil says. "He is very agile and has great body awareness. He appears to be very connected to his performance through feeling. For a technical sport like moguls skiing, this is critical. "
The sum total of this season may lead to a world record for Kingsbury, but even if it doesn't there's no looking back for Canada's emerging freestyle superstar. No matter what happens in Deer Valley, when it comes to moguls, Mikael is the current king of the hill.
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