Mikael Kingsbury is ready for his biggest challenge yet
Canadian moguls star aiming for 1st Olympic gold, 7th Crystal Globe
It's the most wonderful time of the year for Mikael Kingsbury, but not for the usual reasons people get excited in December.
"My favourite part of the year is when we start competing again and just being back to business. I'm just excited," the 25-year-old moguls skier from Deux-Montagnes, Que., says.
"Getting the strategy going when you're at the hotel, talking with my coaches, I love it."
Kingsbury is gearing up for what may be the most important stretch of his career. The World Cup moguls season — a circuit that he's dominated for years — begins this weekend in Ruka, Finland, and the 2018 Winter Olympics are approaching quickly on the horizon.
Kingsbury also heads into this season after an underwhelming performance at the 2017 world championships. Despite entering as the favourite, he left with only a bronze in the moguls competition and failed to reach the podium in dual moguls, a non-Olympic event.
For now, crystal is his primary focus, rather than gold.
"For sure the Olympics every four years is the rarest, but the Crystal Globe is not easy to win," Kingsbury says, referring to the overall World Cup trophy he's won in each of the past six years.
"It's kind of far, Pyeongchang, to think about it, but I still have seven World Cups leading up to Pyeongchang. I'll compete with everyone that is going to go to the Games so I kind of know what I'll need."
Still searching for Olympic crown
Of all the accolades Kingsbury's collected during his freestyle skiing career, the one thing missing is an Olympic gold. He won silver at his debut Games in Sochi, losing out to Canadian teammate Alex Bilodeau in the final despite having the last run as the top seed.
"There was a lot of pressure for sure," Kingsbury told Radio-Canada in June. "I was going last in Sochi and I saw Alex run and, yes, it put a lot of pressure, but I learned a lot from that event.
"It was a stressful position and I remember I was pretty nervous."
Kingsbury relishes the chance to be in that position again in Pyeongchang.
"The plan is very similar to the past couple of years, so I don't want to change a winning formula," Kingsbury says.
"And if I'm in that position again [No. 1 in the Olympic final] I know what to do exactly: just got to stay calm and do the job that I need to do."
It's the fabled trick that's been discussed for the past couple of years, but hasn't made an appearance in competition yet: the cork 1440.
"It's kind of like something I have in my back pocket coming into the Games," Kingsbury says of the partial backflip with a quadruple twist. "If I feel I need the new jump, I know I can use it. It's still not my Plan A, I still have a plan of my jumping, but this is there if I ever need it and I know I can land it."
Back on my skis in the Australian snowy mountains ❄️🇦🇺 <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Cork1440?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Cork1440</a> <a href="https://t.co/Y0aflo8GCA">pic.twitter.com/Y0aflo8GCA</a>—@MikaelKingsbury
Kingsbury is confident in the rest of his repertoire, but feels comfortable calling an audible in the start gate if needed. He credits that ability to make quick changes to his longtime coach, Rob Kober, as well as his teammates.
"The good thing about our team is we share so much information and we try to help each other and it's always nice to be on the podium with your teammates," Kingsbury says." "It's fun to win by yourself, but it's always better when you're with your teammates."
That sharing of information ranges from the layout of the course to commenting on techniques and tricks. "Just little stuff that we see that maybe sometimes the coaches they don't see," Kingsbury says. "We chat about it and we help each other, but after that the cool thing is we're able to turn the page and just have fun together and put the skiing to the side and clear our minds.
"And then when it's time to get back on, we're there for each other and cheering for each other."
With files from Radio-Canada