CALGARY â€” The best moguls skier on the planet is also a tennis fan.
Winner of six straight World Cup gold in Calgary, Mikael Kingsbury says the Canada Olympic Park course feels to him how a Grand Slam must feel to a tennis star.
“It’s kind of like Rafael Nadal when he’s in Roland Garros,” Kingsbury said Thursday after a training session. “He won there so many years in a row. It’s kind of like that for me here.”
The all-time leader in World Cup victories was keeping an eye on the Australian Open as he prepared to defend his gold Saturday in Calgary.
The north-facing slope on the city’s west side is subject to warm winds and icy blasts sometimes within 24 hours, which makes the moguls track perennially tricky.
Temperatures predicted to approach 10 degrees Saturday may be great for spectators, but the pitch could be slushy at the top and icy at the bottom.
“We get the shadows here at COP, so the actual snow will turn sticky on us,” chief of competition Larry Bilton said. “The winds, depending on that, also ices it up.
“As the day goes on, as we get closer to the eight or nine degrees as predicted, it will slow the course up a bit.”
Kingsbury has pulled out wins in Calgary no matter the conditions. He feels he can again Saturday.
“It’s a course where it’s difficult to get your big DD (degree of difficulty), your big jump in and I’ve been able to do it every year even if it was very difficult conditions,” said the 24-year-old from Deux-Montagnes, Que.
“It’s a course where you need to be smart. And I think I’m a smart skier.”
Kingsbury said bobbles he had in training Thursday were not unusual.
“You try to test the limits of the course and those mistakes make you not make the mistakes when you are competing,” he explained
“Tomorrow I know what to do, try to find the run that I want to do in contest and after that I’ll just copy and paste.”
A two-time world champion and five-time winner of the season’s overall World Cup crown, Kingsbury is missing only an Olympic gold medal to make his dominance complete.
He finished second to Canadian teammate Alex Bilodeau in 2014. With Bilodeau now retired, Kingsbury is the favourite next year in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Calgary has been good not only to Kingsbury, but to the host team as Canadians raked in five out of possible six medals in 2016. Philippe Marquis of Quebec City placed second to Kingsbury.
The women blanketed the podium with Montreal’s Chloe Dufour-Lapointe, sister Justine and Andi Naude of Penticton, B.C., finishing first to third respectively.
The Canadian team came to Calgary this year directly from another home stop in Val Saint-Come, Que., where Justine, the Olympic women’s champion, collected her first win of the season.
Naude and Chloe were second and third respectively for another sweep. Justine ranks third in the overall women’s standings after her win.
Kingsbury reclaimed the yellow bib as the men’s overall leader with his victory in Val Saint-Come. He placed sixth and uncharacteristically outside the medals Jan. 13 in Lake Placid, N.Y.
So home is where the hardware is for the moguls team.
“We get a little bit more in our hearts and we want to push more,” Kingsbury said.
“It’s still the beginning of the season and we’re getting into the part where we’re starting to travel a lot to Asia, so to get those points here are very important for the end of the season.”
Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press