Mikael Kingsbury has one thing left to do
Moguls star owns every title, except maybe the biggest of them all
Mikael Kingsbury is one of the most dominant athletes in any sport, anywhere.
The numbers are astounding: Only 24 years old, the Canadian moguls skier already owns the men's record for most all-time World Cup victories in his sport with 33. He has won the crystal globe as the season champion five years running.
In 69 career World Cup starts, Kingsbury has reached the podium 53 times, including four victories at Ruka in Finland, where the 2016-17 season begins on Saturday. (Watch live on CBCSports.ca at 12:40 p.m. ET, and catch more coverage on CBC-TV's Road to the Olympic Games show at 5 p.m. ET.)
But there's one title left to win, and he calls it his "ultimate goal."
A moguls course is nauseatingly steep, with mounds of snow jutting out at regular intervals between two jumps. It's ski racing and acrobatics rolled into one, with athletes scoring points for both how fast they can get down the hill and the quality and difficulty of their tricks.
To prepare, Kingsbury's coaches ask him to ski a course up to a second-and-a-half faster than anyone else on the tour. Then, in competition, he selects whatever speed he needs to win.
This is a rare ability — one his teammates are still trying to learn.
"He's just an incredibly special athlete," says Rob Kober, head coach of the Canadian men's moguls team.
"He loves the sport on its own merits, but he also loves to compete."
Kober has a good story about Kingsbury's competitiveness. It takes place this past off-season in the Australian mountain town of Jindabyne.
As part of its dry-land training, the Canadian team was playing baseball — a habit formed while chasing snow around the world during the summer months back home. On this day, they'd created a makeshift diamond on a rugby pitch during the Australian winter.
"Literally, there's kangaroos hopping around this field and we're playing baseball in a blizzard in Australia in August. It was super surreal," Kober recalls.
"I'm standing around looking at this scene, it's like out of The Twilight Zone, and Mik's pitching. And he's pitching to win," Kober laughs. "It's all business."
Kingsbury also made it his business in Australia to work on a new trick. It's called a cork 1440, and it involves a partial back flip with a quadruple twist.
Here's a new trick i've been working on this summer in Australia⛷🌪 Get ready 2017 season! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/cork1440?src=hash">#cork1440</a> <a href="https://t.co/TYIGx78NQ9">pic.twitter.com/TYIGx78NQ9</a>—@MikaelKingsbury
'I learned how to lose'
Kingsbury stands a shade over 5-foot-8 and weighs around 150 pounds — ideal for spinning off jumps. He usually sweeps his dark hair under a backwards black snapback cap.
The native of Deux-Montagnes, Que., is laid-back and humble but freely admits to his competitive nature.
"I hate to lose," he says. "I've been like that since I was young. Growing up I had an older brother [Maxime], so I learned how to lose basically every day.
"When I compete, I think I care more than everyone."
Kober thinks Kingsbury's edge also comes from good acrobatic training as a child.
"The hardest degree-of-difficulty jumps that are done on the moguls course, he's been doing them since he was probably 13 or 14 years old." says Kober.
The missing piece
Kingsbury also played baseball until he was 15, pitching a little and eventually moving to shortstop because of his relatively small size and superb athleticism. At the plate he was a leadoff hitter.
Now he's one win away from moguls' version of a Grand Slam. This includes winning the World Cup rookie of the year award, the crystal globes (Kingsbury has won both the moguls and overall freestyle titles in each of the last five years), the world championships (in both single and dual moguls), plus Olympic gold.
All Kingsbury is missing is the last piece after being edged by teammate Alex Bilodeau for gold at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
"This would be the ultimate goal in my career," Kingsbury says.
Qualification for the 2018 Pyeongchang Games begins with this season, but Kingsbury says he isn't thinking too much about the Olympics yet.
After all, it wasn't too long ago that he and other Sochi Olympians were honoured on the field before a Toronto Blue Jays game. He didn't throw the ceremonial first pitch that day, but it's another item on his wish list.
Like a true competitor, he says he'd want to throw from the top of the mound instead of the usual spot in front. His pitch selection? Fastball.
"I would love to do that," gushes Kingsbury. "If I do something special and they invite me, that would be a super awesome feeling.
Freestyle skier <a href="https://twitter.com/MikaelKingsbury">@MikaelKingsbury</a> has a pretty good record in Ruka, Finland. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ThrowbackThursday?src=hash">#ThrowbackThursday</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TBT?src=hash">#TBT</a><a href="https://t.co/OubWKT9pU1">https://t.co/OubWKT9pU1</a> <a href="https://t.co/LqP4Du95zN">pic.twitter.com/LqP4Du95zN</a>—@CBCOlympics