Park City, UT – As the dumping snow that shrouded qualifications gave way to clearing skies and some gusty winds, the first event of the action-packed FIS Freestyle Deer Valley World Cup weekend took to the famed Utah resort’s Champion run for a bright night of moguls competition.
While the cast of last week’s podium in Calgary largely made a return to the winner’s steps in Deer Valley, proving that the power players really are in place the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games nears, there were some notable developments, as orders changed, personal bests were reached, and milestones were passed.
The ladies’ event was marked by a win for Hannah Kearney (USA) on home soil in the 100th World Cup event of her remarkable career. Doing the math for Kearney’s success rate thus far is impressive – in 57% of the moguls events she’s entered, she has reached the podium. In total, she has won 38% of her career World Cup events.
On Thursday night she claimed her 38th win by besting Chloe Dufour-Lapointe and her younger sister Justine. The result gives Chloe back-to-back second-place finishes, suggesting that the softest-spoken of the Dufour-Lapointe trio (eldest sister Maxime placed fifth on Thursday) is peaking at the right time after registering only three podiums in the 2012-13 season. For Justine, the third-place finish is a slight step back after a flawless performance the previous weekend in Calgary, but a step in the right direction when one considers her inclusion of a new, more-difficult 360 mute air in her run that she intends to have mastered for Sochi.
The 360 mute has been a staple of Kearney’s winning runs for awhile. Justine’s adoption of the jump makes things interesting on the ladies’ side, heading towards Sochi.
Heather McPhie (USA) in fourth and Nikola Sudova (CZE) in sixth rounded out the ladies’ superfinal.
In the men’s event, it was a Canadian sweep of the podium with Mikael Kingsbury and Alex Bilodeau taking their standard places on the top two steps of the podium, where they were joined by teammate Marc-Antoine Gagnon for the first podium of his career.
Kingsbury was his typical powerful self at a venue that he describes as his “favourite course” on the World Cup tour, while Bilodeau managed to hold on to second despite a performance that he described as a “bad day at the office.” For Gagnon, however, his first World Cup podium comes at the end of a 12-month stretch that has seen him more often outside the top 10 than in, including a tough 30th place finish last week in Calgary.
A bottom-jump crash by the lightning-fast U.S. skier Patrick Deneen certainly helped Gagnon’s cause, but it also opened up the door for a second best-ever performance on the day, as the young American Troy Murphy placed fifth while competing in his first World Cup superfinal. Murphy’s previous best showing was a 20th at the first World Cup event of his career, almost two years ago.
Fourth place in the men’s competition went to Dmitriy Reihard (KAZ), while Deneen’s superfinals crash left him in sixth.
Next up from Deer Valley is the aerials competition under the lights on Friday, as the big weekend in Utah picks up steam before the festivities end with a second moguls competition on Saturday night.