World's top moguls skier Mikael Kingsbury named to Canadian Olympic team
2014 Winter Games champion Justine Dufour-Lapointe, Andi Naude also nominated
With a disappointing world championships behind him, star moguls skier Mikaël Kingsbury is looking ahead to bigger and better things.
His "ultimate goal" of an Olympic gold medal could be realized next February after Kingsbury was provisionally named to the Canadian moguls team Tuesday along with 2014 Olympic women's champion Justine Dufour-Lapointe and Andi Naude.
"I don't want to put the world championship in the shadow of my season," Kingsbury told reporters after settling for bronze at the recent world event in Sierra Nevada, Spain. "I had such an amazing season, my best ever.
"I feel like I'm [going] in the right direction for the Olympics next year."
Kingsbury admitted to CBC Sports during a conference call Tuesday that he felt "nervous" in his Olympic debut four years ago in Sochi, Russia but has learned from the experience of being edged by teammate Alex Bilodeau for gold.
"I worked hard and feel I'm a stronger and mature skier," he said. "The skills to win at the Olympics, I know I have them. If I can ski my run [in Pyeongchang] I think I can put myself in a very good position to win. I've been through many pressure moments and now I think I just need to keep it simple in the start gate."
'He can face all the challenges'
Marc-André Moreau, Freestyle Canada's high performance director, concurred, saying Kingsbury's jumping is higher and of better quality than in recent years.
"We've seen him grow … and he can face all the challenges," Moreau said. "I think Mik's got a clear picture to keep things simple. That's the key.
"The Olympic Games is a bigger event and more stress, but at the end of the day, it's still moguls skiing."
To be provisionally nominated, Kingsbury, Dufour-Lapointe and Naude had to earn a minimum two podiums at the following competitions:
- FIS World Cup, Val Saint-Come, Que. — January 2017
- FIS World Cup, Calgary — January 2017
- FIS World Cup, Bokwang, South Korea — February 2017
- FIS World Championships, Sierra Nevada, Spain — March 2017
Athletes must use at least one result from worlds or the Olympic test event that was held in February for their two top podium finishes.
Next season, nominated athletes will have to meet minimum performance criteria at one eligible World Cup event by ranking in the top 12 and in the top two-thirds of the group, excluding competitors who have abandoned.
Kingsbury sets World Cup record
Kingsbury entered the world championships with a record seven consecutive World Cup victories and nine overall, giving the Deux-Montagnes Que., native 41 for his career and the Crystal Globe as season champion six years running.
Earlier this season, Kingsbury recorded his 59th podium finish to surpass the legendary Edgar Grospiron.
At the 2014 Winter Games, Kingsbury was edged by teammate Alex Bilodeau for gold in his Olympic debut at Sochi, Russia.
Kingsbury became the king of all freestyle skiers during the 2011-12 season, winning the first of his Crystal Globes, and at 19, was the youngest male moguls skier ever to do so. That season included a record 13 World Cup medals for the now 24-year-old as he reached the podium at each event.
"One of my objectives of the season was to secure my place for the next Games," Kingsbury said. "Now that that's done, my team and I will spend the next months preparing for this major event."
Dufour-Lapointe, 23, was the first Canadian female moguls skier to reach the podium this season and capped it with a bronze medal at worlds. She was the top Canadian in the overall moguls standings, finishing third and ending a string of five straight second-place finishes.
Canada won 4 moguls medals in Sochi
"Even if it's not the perfect season I hoped for, it's the next one that's more important [leading into the PyeongChang Olympics]," said Dufour-Lapointe, who made her World Cup debut in December 2010.
Tuesday's announcement brought back good memories from Sochi for the Montreal athlete who captured one of Canada's four moguls medals in Russia.
"I greatly enjoyed skiing at the test event in Korea [on Feb. 11]. The course was truly enjoyable, so I'm already looking forward to the Games," said Dufour-Lapointe in a statement released by Freestyle Canada.
The youngest of the three Dufour-Lapointe sisters, affectionately known as the queen of moguls skiing, Justine made her Olympic debut in Sochi, where she made history with Chloe when they finished 1-2. They became the third set of sisters to ever win gold and silver in the same Winter Olympic event.
Naude, 21, will be competing at the Olympics for the first time in South Korea, and couldn't hide her excitement following the nomination.
"It has always been my dream to represent Canada at an Olympic Games," she said, "and after narrowly missing the 2014 Games, this early nomination means the world to me.
"The stress of qualification has been relieved, and for this I am incredibly grateful. I can now take a deep breath and really focus on being the best athlete I can be."
The Regina-born, Penticton, B.C.-raised Naude joined the national team at age 16 in 2012 and in recent years has increased the degree of difficulty for jumps as one of the few women to compete with a backfull on the top air.
At the recent world competition, Naude was eliminated in the Round of 16, but finished fourth in the overall standings this season.
In February, she finished third at the Olympic moguls test event and among her career highlights was joining Chloe and Justine Dufour-Lapointe in a podium sweep at the FIS World Cup in Calgary last season.