Moguls 2016/17 World Cup season recap

11 April 2017 18:36
Ben Cavet (FRA) in action
Ben Cavet (FRA) in action -
Agence Zoom

The FIS Freestyle Skiing moguls World Cup saw a bit of everything in the 2016/17 season, with established veterans once again showing their prowess, teenage upstarts rising through the ranks to became top challengers, compelling rivalries played out across venues historic and brand new and, at the end of the season, a slew of new champions crowned at the Sierra Nevada 2017 Freestyle Ski & Snowboard World Championships. 

After 11 moguls and dual competitions at eight venues spread across six countries and three continents, these were major stories of the season…

 

Top Athletes

Britt Cox (AUS) and Mikael Kingsbury (CAN) were the undisputed powerhouses of the season, with both athletes claiming not only the moguls crystal globes in dominant fashion, but also taking the Freestyle overall titles once the dust had all settled. 

While Kingsbury’s ownership of the moguls crown has became a perennial storyline, with this past season being the sixth-straight in which he has claimed both crystal globes, Cox’s rise to top spot in the world was a revelation in 2016/17, as she came into the season without a World Cup win to her name, and at best a 14th place finish on the overall rankings (with the noted caveat that she had never actually competed in every event in a World Cup season before this winter).

Though she hadn’t a World Cup win before the season started, she didn’t waste any time locking down that first one, claiming victory at the season-opener and then adding six more wins and a pair of third-place results for a total of nine podiums in 11 events. Cox’s final points total of 894 put her nearly 250 points clear of runner-up Justine Dufour-Lapointe on the final rankings, and established the 22 year old Australian as the one to watch heading into next season’s Olympic lead-up.

Though we’ve become somewhat used to the brilliance of Cox’s counterpart on the men’s side, Kingsbury continues to find new ways to astound, racking up new records and accolades at seemingly every turn in a 2016/17 season that was his best ever on the World Cup.

In 2016/17 alone Kingsbury: 

-Established a new men’s FIS Freestyle record for victories, finishing the season with 42 wins after surpassing acro skier Rune Kristiansen’s mark of 38.

-Tied his own record for consecutive victories with seven-straight to finish off the season

-Moved in the top-5 for all-time Freestyle podiums

-Set a new men’s record for Freestyle overall titles with six

-Moved into a tie with Hannah Kearney (USA) for most moguls titles with six

Still just 24 years old, Kingsbury is nowhere near finished with his assault on the record books, and we’re all looking forward to the 2017/18 season-opener where he’ll be looking to start the winter with what could be his eighth-straight win and, if he should do so, another entry beside his name in the history books. 

 

Youth movement

While it may seem like a moot point to discuss “youth” in a field where the average age is somewhere around 22 years old, there were some notable youngsters who elevated themselves to the next level in 2016/17, staking their claim as the future stars of the moguls World Cup moving forward.

Suitably, the two best examples of this are the two athletes who took this season’s Rookie of the Year honours, as Olivia Giacco (USA) and Walter Wallberg (SWE) both scored the first podiums of their careers this season at just 16 years of age. 

Giacco is a member of a young US squad that is showing a huge amount of promise after losing their leader Hannah Kearney - perhaps the greatest moguls skier of all time - to retirement at the end of 2015/16. With herself, 19-year-old Morgan Schild (the 2014/15 Rookie of the year), 20-year-old Jaelin Kauf (the 2015/16 Rookie of the Year), and 21-year-old Keaton McCargo all now proven World Cup podium contenders, young Giacco is one impressive part of a strong new wave of US moguls skiers.

(Of course, the best of the youth on the ladies’ side is represented by France’s 18-year-old Perrine Laffont, but we’ll get to her shortly.)

Over on the men’s side, Sweden’s Walter Walberg, who prior to 2016/17 had spent summer camps in Sweden training with Kingsbury, suddenly made it clear this year that he is ready to step up to his coach’s level, scoring a podium in just his third World Cup start. 

Wallberg was far and away the youngest man to score a World Cup podium in 2016/17, locking in a third place at Val St. Come (CAN) just one week after scoring the first top-10 of his career with a fifth-place finish in Lake Placid (USA).

 

New Venues

While legendary venues such as Ruka (FIN), Deer Valley (USA), and Calgary (CAN) all stepped up to once again host excellent competitions, a couple of brand new Asian venues stand out for their quality of facility, the level of competition on their slopes and, perhaps most importantly, their significance as the host venues for the next two Olympic Winter Games.

Korea’s Phoenix Park and China’s Thaiwoo resort both became World Cup hosts for the first time this season, with the Phoenix Park competition acting as a test event for the PyeongChang 2018 Games and the event in Thaiwoo the first of several that will lead up to the Beijing 2022 competitions. 

Both the Phoenix Park and the Thaiwoo contests were hugely successful, with both featuring advanced moguls pistes that allowed athletes to shine this season while whetting the mogul world’s appetite for the big competitions to come.

With the PyeongChang Games on deck for next season, the Korean event in particular was one that was circled on everyone’s calendars. And while we all know that a win in the test event doesn’t promise success come Games time, wins by Britt Cox and Mikael Kingsbury certainly give them a competitive edge heading into the big show next February. 

 

Sierra Nevada Stunners

The season finale moguls and dual moguls competitions at the Sierra Nevada 2017 Freestyle Ski & Snowboard World Championships in Spain went down as the two most exciting contest days of of the season, where any 

If there was an award for the moguls Clutch Performance of the Year, that award would almost certainly go to Japan’s Ikuma Horishima, the 19-year-old veteran of 29 World Cup starts who came into Sierra Nevada with just one podium to his name but would take back-to-back victories and leave Spain as the double world champion - a feat no men’s mogul skier had accomplished before. 

Oh and, as a not-so-minor aside, let it not be forgotten that Horishima became not only the first men’s double world champion, but also the youngest world champion in both singles and duals while he was at it. 

The ladies’ side of things stuck a little closer to script, with Cox taking the single moguls gold and World Cup second-overall Laffont claiming the dual moguls victory. However, despite her standing ranking coming into competition, Laffont’s victory was remarkable in it’s own right, as the 18-year-old who in 2015/16 claimed the title of junior world champion stepped up to take the big title just one season later, becoming the second-youngest dual moguls gold medallist in world championship history. 

Add on a silver medal in the Sierra Nevada 2017 single moguls competition and suddenly Laffont’s story becomes one to rival Cox’s as the most remarkable and impressive of the 2016/17 FIS Freestyle Skiing moguls season.