2015 LAKE PLACID FREESTYLE WORLD CUP

MOGULS
On Thursday in Lake Placid, USA, Justine Dufour-Lapointe and Mikael Kingsbury, backed up by teammates Andi Naude and Marc-Antoine Gagnon, continued to a run of dominance by the Canadian moguls team in 2014/15 that may make this season even more impressive than their last.

Dufour-Lapointe took victory at Lake Placid in the ladies’ competition over hometown favourite Hannah Kearney (USA), though it was by the barest of margins. Dufour-Lapointe’s score of 86.86 was a mere .43 better than Kearney’s 86.43, with Dufour-Lapointe’s superior turning scores offset by Kearney’s edge in the jumps. With those scores essentially cancelling each other out, it came down to speed, and the .46 second Dufour-Lapointe had ahead of Kearney made the difference. To see Hannah’s run on Youtube click here.

The win was the second World Cup victory in a row for Dufour-Lapointe, as she now leads the ladies’ moguls standings by 59 points over Kearney, as well as sitting atop the Freestyle World Cup overall rankings. Dufour-Lapointe has yet to finish outside of the top five this season, improving in each of her competitions on her way to her most recent back-to-back win performances.

Kearney, meanwhile, has podiums in four out of five events this season, though an uncharacteristic 25th place finish in the Deer Valley moguls event is hampering her at this point in the moguls crystal globe race.

Third place in ladies’ competition went to the above-mentioned Naude, as she scored the first podium of her career while adding another dimension to the already miles-deep Canadian team. Also of note was the performance of fourth-place finisher and veteran Deborah Scanzio (SUI), who is seeing something of a renaissance in 2014/15 since switching from the Italian to Swiss teams in the off-season.

For the men, Mikael Kingsbury made it four wins in a row, proving yet again that when he makes no mistakes he is, at this point in his career, unbeatable. His superfinal score of 90.54 was comfortably clear of second place finisher Alexandr Smyshlyaev’s (RUS) 87.97, while Kingsbury’s teammate Marc-Antoine Gagnon was able to make it four-out-of-six podiums on the day for the Canadian squad, coming in just behind Smyshlyaev, in third.

Newly-crowned moguls world champion Anthony Benna (FRA) continued a resurgent 2014/15 with a fourth-place result in Thursday’s event.

Kingsbury now leads the men’s moguls rankings by over 200 points – an incredible margin at this point in the season.

The FIS Freestyle World Cup moguls tour keeps rolling next week in Val St. Come, Canada, while action from Lake Placid continues tomorrow with aerials, followed by the second-ever aerials team event on Saturday.

AERIALS
It was the biggest night of their lives for several young athletes on the Freestyle World Cup tour, as Aliaksandra Ramanouskaya (BLR) lead a slate of ladies who claimed their first career World Cup podiums, and Mac Bohonnon (USA) took his first career win in aerials competition under the lights in tough weather conditions in Lake Placid on Friday night. Here is Mac’s run on Youtube.

A varying wind made things difficult for all competitors, and gusts from the rear helped send several top athletes out of the competition ahead of schedule. In the ladies’ event, that meant that World Cup leader at the start of the night, Xu Mengtao (CHN), couldn’t put down a clean jump and was unable to make it out of the qualifying round.

For the ladies’ who did make it through to the superfinal strategy became the name of the game, as all but one of the final six elected to go with a relatively simple lay, full jump, that would be less affected by the winds. 18-year-old Ramanouskaya, with a near-flawless execution, was able to put down the best example of the most popular jump of the evening, for the win, edging Veronika Korsunova (RUS) and Melissa Corbo (CAN).

For all three of the ladies the podium spot was the first of their World Cup careers, and in the case of Corbo it came in just her third World Cup competition.

On the men’s side of things, it was Bohonnon continuing his breakout season by stepping up to the next level and taking his first career win by going toe-to-toe with the exceptional Chinese team.

As the top qualifier out of final one, Bohonnon had the last jump of the evening in front of the enthusiastic Lake Placid crowd. With three Chinese athletes occupying the three podium positions at the point, Bohonnon was able to drop in and stomp the same double full, full, full jump that all three of his Chinese rivals had done, but cleaner and better for the win.

Bohonnon’s final jump pushed Zhou Hhang to second and World Cup aerials leader Qi Guangpu to third. The podium results were the third straight for both Bohonnon and Qi, with Bohonnon closing the gap to less than 100 points between the two.

Despite only registering an eighth place result, Kiley McKinnon (USA) gave the home squad something else to celebrate on Friday, as she was able to take over the yellow leader’s bib from 16th place-finishing Xu.

With so many interesting results on Friday night, things are stacking up nicely for what should be a highly-entertaining team event on Saturday night. The Lake Placid competition will be only the second-ever aerials team event after a successful debut of the format in the season-opening competition in Beijing.

AERIALS TEAM EVENT
The second-ever World Cup aerials team event took place on Saturday night at Lake Placid’s Whiteface Mountain in difficult conditions, with frigid temperatures and strong winds making for a tough night for the highest jumpers in the world.

Things at Lake Placid got going with the qualification rounds that would decide each athlete’s World Cup score on the day. Results from qualification were similar to the preceding days efforts in the tough jumping conditions, in that top athletes like Kiley McKinnon (USA), Xu Mengtao (CHN), and Danielle Scott (AUS) were all unable to cleanly put down jumps with a higher degree of difficulty than the ladies who would eventually go on to place in the top three.

When the dust had settled, it would be Renee McElduff (AUS) taking her first World Cup “win” with a clean full, full jump that was just enough to give her the edge over Veronika Kursonova (RUS), and Hanna Huskova (BLR). Korsunova’s result made it back-to-back second place finishes for the 22-year-old, while for Huskova it was her first career podium, and both those ladies would find themselves back on the podium at the conclusion of the team event.

In the men’s qualies it was Zhou Hang leading the way, making for the fourth new World Cup winner in as many events in Lake Placid aerials competition. Zhou put down an excellent double full, full, full that would put him well ahead of his Chinese teammate and World Cup leader Qi Guangpu, while Ilya Burov (RUS) would end qualifications in third.

With points earned from qualifications all tallied up, McKinnon had widened her lead on Xu to a still-tenuous 18 points on the ladies’ side, while Qi remained more than 100 points ahead of Zhou for the men.

In the team event, the ever-strong Chinese team was able to once again assert its aerials supremacy, even though Xu, their top lady, did not participate. With Xu’s stand-in Shen Xiaoxue, Qi, and Zhou in particular all putting down excellent jumps, the Belarusian team lead by Denis Osipau and the Russians lead by Burov were forced to settle for second and third place respectively.

The hometown US team, lead by third-ranked aerialist Mac Bohonnon, struggled in the four-team super final, and would finish in fourth place.

The Lake Placid event was another successful running of the somewhat experimental team event, after the first such competition was held earlier this season in Beijing. Athletes and fans alike agree that the ‘team’ variation to a sport as individualistic as aerials adds a new dimension and atmosphere to one of the original freestyle events, boding well for the format moving forward.

Next up for the World Cup aerials tour is a city event in Moscow, the capital city of Russia, on February 21, 2015.