Mikael Kingsbury rocks Ruka, captures World Cup moguls opener
Defending champ claims 34th gold medal on circuit
Mikael Kingsbury is continuing to set records on the World Cup moguls circuit, and he hasn't even been able to break out his best moves yet.
The Canadian freestyle ski star opened the season with a dominating performance to claim his record 34th World Cup moguls victory.
The reigning World Cup champion from Deux-Montagnes, Que., posted a score of 84.26 to comfortably finish ahead of Australia's Matt Graham (80.30).
Benjamin Cavet of France was third with 80.11 points.
"I changed my strategy for the final and super final, just doing the back full [a back flip with a full twist] instead of the double full [a flip with two twists] on the top air, but still skiing clean and going fast. That strategy worked out today.
"To go back home with the yellow bib [as circuit leader] is the best Christmas gift I could ask for."
This season is especially important to Kingsbury because it sets up his run to the 2018 Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, where he hopes to win his first Olympic gold.
He's been putting in the training over the summer, putting in hundreds of runs this summer perfecting the cork 1,440, a partial back flip with quadruple twist. He's the only skier in the world who has landed the trick on a moguls course and he plans on adding it to his already considerable arsenal of tricks.
Ruka, however, was not the place to take unnecessary risks and show off new tricks. While Kingsbury said he pushed the boundaries as far as his speed on Saturday, the shorter course and smaller jumps in Finland didn't encourage experimentation.
"It's in the plan to complete the cork 1,440, it would be amazing Kingsbury said. "But I need the jumps and the landings to be a bit longer. Even today I did the back full instead of the double full because I knew I didn't need to take the risk.
"Right now I'm getting some points ahead of the other guys in the standings, so if i can do that a couple more times then it might be a good time to do [the new trick]."
Quebec City's Philippe Marquis was sixth and Marc-Antoine Gagnon of Terrebonne, Que., was 10th.
Canada was kept off the podium in the women's event, with Olympic champion Justine Dufour-Lapointe of Montreal coming closest with a fifth-place finish with 69.71 points.
Britteny Cox of Australia was first with 73.91 points, followed by Perrine Laffont of France (73.13) and Keaton McCargo of the United States (71.78).
Maxime Dufour-Lapointe was eighth, Quebec City's Audrey Robichaud ninth and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe 10th.
"I'm a little disappointed with the result today," Justin Dufour-Lapointe said. "I would have loved to be in another position than fifth, but I'm still very proud as I pushed myself during each run. It wasn't necessarily easy, because the course was quite simple, you really had to maximize your speed and amplitude. On the last run I pushed my limits, and for that I'm really proud. "
Britteny Cox took gold, Perrine Laffont of France was second, and Keaton McCargo of the U.S. was third.