McPhie opens freestyle season with a win
All of Heather McPhie's hard work seems to be paying off. The seven-year team veteran kicked off the season with a bang, winning the FIS Freestyle World Cup opener, a dual moguls competition in Ruka, Finland Saturday.
McPhie's back-X and signature D-spin, paired with consistent skiing kept her atop the leader board for much of the day. It was the second career World Cup win for the Montana native; the other came at Deer Valley in 2010.
After qualifications, the U.S. women had five athletes advance to finals. K.C. Oakley was the second-best U.S. woman, placing sixth, while Heidi Kloser had her most successful duals competition to date, finishing in seventh.
Olympic Champion Hannah Kearney missed the event as she continues to recover from a crash in early October. Kearney plans to return to competition Jan. 19 at the U.S. Freestyle Cup in Lake Placid, N.Y.
"You put in so much work in the offseason and you never know how its going to pan out," said McPhie "You just have to stay focused on yourself and your goals and that's what I tried to do. I set the goal today to charge and just go for it. Sometimes I start my seasons off slow in the results category and with a stacked field like there is here, there's no better way than to start off the season than with this win. I'm going to keep pushing myself and pushing the sport."
Meanwhile in the men's event, teammate Jeremy Cota took third. Cota, who was eliminated by Canada's Alexander Bilodeau, threw a back-full and back-X.
But under cold and windy conditions, it was last season's overall winner, Mikael Kingsbury, taking the first win of the season, while Bilodeau earned second place. Moreover, five Canadian men and six Canadian women qualified for the final rounds of 16 in the competition.
Out of his four duals to make it to the top of the podium, Kingsbury had to face three of his countrymen, including Cedric Rochon from St. Sauveur, Que. and Marc-Antoine Gagnon from Terrebonne, Que. And while he was nervous about each of these runs, it was the final face-off against the reigning Olympic champion that was the most nerve-wracking for the 20-year-old from Deux-Montagnes, Que.
“I knew there was a lot of pressure in my dual against Alex, I knew the media would talk quite a bit about this dual for a long time after it. So, I tried to relax and have fun at the top of the course and even though Alex is my teammate I tried to treat him the same way I would any other competitor,” said Kingsbury, who won the crystal globe last season while Bilodeau was on a hiatus. “I always seem to go against Canadians, so I have a lot of practice treating them like anybody else when I’m in the gate.”
And apparently it worked, “I had a great run against Alex, I didn’t make a mistake,” Kingsbury said, adding that winning the qualification round was a bonus as it meant he got to choose his course first for every dual, “I chose the same course every time, I knew it so well that I felt like I couldn’t miss.”
Back on the American side, Pat Deneen, who finished last season ranked second in the world, took fifth and Bradley Wilson took sixth.
"The athletes started off a little nervous," said team coach Garth Hager. "The first event is always a challenge to know how everyone is going to compete and how their offseason training has paid off. A clean slate might be an advantage but anything goes in the first event. The team as a whole had a really great start. To have four ladies in top 10 and three men in the top six is a tremendous start. We are all looking forward to carrying this momentum to the next event."
The U.S. concluded the day with four women in the top 10 and three men in the top six. The World Cup action continues next weekend in Kreischberg, Austria.
|6||OAKLEY K C||1988||USA||400.00|
|20||AMUNDSEN Emilie Klingen||1994||NOR||110.00|
|Did not finish|
|39||ANDERSEN Tevje Lie||1991||NOR||18.80|
|Did not start|
|Did not finish|