Moguls king Mikael Kingsbury celebrating 'best World Cup season of my career'
Canadian skier won 9th straight overall title during shortened season
Mikael Kingsbury's moguls season was short, but sweet.
The Canadian won seven of 10 World Cups, and finished second in the other three, to claim the men's season title for a record-stretching ninth straight year.
The World Cup moguls and dual moguls finale March 13-15 in Sweden was cancelled due to COVID-19.
Kingsbury had already locked down the crystal globe that goes to the season champion the week prior in Russia.
"I think this is the best World Cup season I've had in my career," the reigning Olympic and world champion told The Canadian Press in a phone interview Thursday.
"I've never had that much competition with the guys. Everyone is super-consistent and skiing well at a very high level, so it brings the best out of me."
Kingsbury now owns 63 career World Cup victories in 109 starts.
The 27-year-old from Deux-Montagnes, Que., has also stood on the podium 91 times for a medal-winning percentage of 83.
Kingsbury battled with Japan's Ikuma Horishima for the season leader's yellow bib.
The Canadian put distance on his challenger Feb. 22 in Horishima's home country.
Weather conditions poor and Kingsbury among the first men down the course in qualifying in Tazawako, he put down a strong, but unrisky, run to ensure he would advance.
WATCH | Kingsbury clinches overall World Cup title:
Horishima skied off course in qualifying and earned zero World Cup points. Kingsbury went on to collect 100 in victory.
"I think he just pushed too hard," Kingsbury said of his rival. "I think he wanted to win the qualification and show everyone at home he can beat me."
Kingsbury's season was not without challenges. Just days before his win in Japan, the Canadian moguls team was stunned by the death of 19-year-old teammate Brayden Kuroda of Penticton, B.C.
Cause of death wasn't disclosed. Kuroda had just competed in his first World Cups alongside Kingsbury in both Mont-Tremblant, Que., and Calgary.
Kuroda then remained in North America to compete in NorAm events.
"I knew him very well," Kingsbury said. "I coached him when he was younger at a Momentum Ski Camp in Whistler. I know his family.
"We were in Japan and we were woken up by that news. It was pretty rough. It brought the boys and the girls on the team all together.
"I knew he would have given a lot to be in our place and be able to ski in Japan at the World Cup, so we did that for him. We skied for him."
The world governing body of skiing awards an overall crystal globe to the freestyle skier who collects the most points across all disciplines — moguls, aerials, ski cross, halfpipe, slopestyle and big air.
Kingsbury so dominated moguls that he lifted that trophy for an unprecedented ninth consecutive season.
Halfpipe skier Noah Bowman of Calgary ranked second behind Kingsbury. Toronto's Kevin Drury, who took the men's ski cross crystal globe, was fourth.
WATCH | Kingsbury talks to CBC from self-isolation at home:
Having surpassed the record for the most all-time World Cup moguls victories back in 2015, Kingsbury continues to extend that record with relentless consistency.
"I've won nine crystal globes in a row," he said. "Next year I can go for a round number of 10, so that's motivating.
"We're in a sport in which there's no perfection so you can always try to reach for that perfection and try and get the limit out of every course.
"I feel I can do that even better now. I'm more mature. I know exactly what to do."
The only freestyle skier in history with more career World Cup victories is Conny Kissling, a Swiss woman who earned 106 between 1981 and 1992 across various disciplines including moguls.
"I like to aim for stuff that seems untouchable," Kingsbury said. "Maybe I can do it."
Having recently returned to Canada from Europe, Kingsbury was self-isolating Thursday.
The athlete didn't have COVID-19 symptoms, but followed the direction of the federal and provincial health agencies for travellers from abroad to self-quarantine for two weeks.
He and girlfriend Laurence Mongeon were making the most of the lull.
"I'm celebrating the season," Kingsbury said. 'We bought a few bottles of wine."