Getty Images

One year after winning Olympic gold, Mikael Kingsbury is still striving for more

Leave a comment

While watching the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics, then-nine-year-old Mikael Kingsbury printed out the Olympic symbol on a piece of paper and wrote below it that he would win a gold medal. He taped it to the ceiling above his bed at his home in Quebec so that he could see it every night before he fell asleep.

Sixteen years later, Kingsbury stood on top of the podium at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics – and over 6,000 miles away in Quebec, his brother scribbled across the sign so it read, ‘you did win.’ The edited version is still hanging above Kingsbury’s childhood bed today.

If anyone thought Kingsbury, 26, would take it easy now that he’s accomplished the goal he set at age nine, they were wrong. He opened his post-Olympic season with four-straight World Cup wins. If anything, he says his success in PyeongChang just inspired him more. “Winning gold just gave me more motivation,” he said in a phone interview at the end of January. “Once you reach the top, [you] want to stay there.”

In addition to his gold medal from PyeongChang, Kingsbury also owns silver from the 2014 Sochi Games. His dominance on the World Cup circuit is even more impressive. In 96 starts, he has stood on the podium 78 times, including 54 wins. His recent success is even more staggering: in his last 30 starts in singles moguls, he has won 23 times – and only finished off the podium twice. His strong results have helped him win seven-straight World Cup titles – and he’s well on his way to claiming an eighth this season. His consistency is even more improbable when you consider the unforgiving nature of moguls, an event that combines speed, form, and style – and is held on snowy slopes in ever-changing conditions.

Kingsbury’s record isn’t as flawless in world championship competition, though, something he says he’s hoping to improve upon this week in Park City, Utah. The singles competition will be held on Friday night, while the non-Olympic dual moguls event will take place on Saturday. At the 2017 World Championships, Kingsbury claimed bronze in singles, but placed 13th in duals.

“My last world championships didn’t go as well as I wanted it to,” Kingsbury said in January. “This year, [the world championships] are my main goal… I’m trying to be at my peak there.” Kingsbury has had plenty of previous success on ‘Champion,’ the slope at Deer Valley where this year’s World Championships are being held. (‘Champion’ is also the slope that was used at the 2002 Salt Lake Games, the competition that sparked Kingsbury’s gold-medal goal.) He has won the last four World Cup events at the venue,

The two-time Olympic medalist’s approach to competition is calculated carefully. In practice, he frequently skis up to a second-and-a-half faster than he generally does in competition. Because he typically qualifies in the top position heading into the final round, he’s able to watch his competitors go before him, and adjust his speed and tricks based on the score he thinks he needs.

Kingsbury also says his goals have changed since the PyeongChang Olympics, “Before it was only win, win, win. Now, it’s more about reaching my full potential.” He’s been working on new tricks to include in his repertoire and says he has a cork 1440 (four twists off-axis with skis crossed) ready to go if one of his competitor’s throws down the gauntlet.

He also trains double flips in the off-season, which are currently not approved for competition by the international ski federation (FIS). “I want to make sure I’m in the loop so if one day they say, ‘Ok, you can throw doubles,’ I’ll be ready.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

April Ross, Alix Klineman back atop Olympic beach volleyball qualifying

April Ross, Alix Klineman
FIVB World Tour
Leave a comment

Two-time Olympic medalist April Ross and new partner Alix Klineman moved back on top of the U.S. Olympic beach volleyball qualifying standings by winning an event in Itapema, Brazil this week.

Ross, who split from Kerri Walsh Jennings in 2017, and Klineman beat Canadians Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes 25-23, 18-21, 15-10 in Sunday’s final for their third title in 11 FIVB World Tour tournaments together.

“Every victory is important, but this counts for more,” Klineman said, according to the FIVB. “We want to send a message and we want to be consistently the best.

Ross and Klineman supplanted Walsh Jennings and her new partner, Brooke Sweat, for the lead in the early U.S. Olympic qualifying rankings with still more than a year of events ahead.

1. Ross/Klineman – 3,240 (5 events played)
2. Walsh Jennings/Sweat – 3,100 (7 events)
3. Day/Flint – 2,180 (5 events)
4. Hughes/Ross — 2,000 (4 events)
5. Larsen/Stockman — 1,840 (5 events)
6. Sponcil/Claes — 1,600 (3 events)

Each team’s 12 best results from Sept. 1, 2018, to June 14, 2020, go into the Olympic qualifying rankings. That means Ross and Klineman are comfortably in front, having played two fewer events than Walsh Jennings and Sweat, who lost in the quarterfinals in Itapema.

The top two U.S. pairs come June 15, 2020, provided they’re ranked high enough internationally, will qualify for Tokyo. Most of the qualifying events, including the ones with the most points available, are still to come this summer.

Ross, 36, picked up Klineman, 29, after Walsh Jennings didn’t join her in signing a domestic AVP contract in 2017. The 6-foot-5 Klineman primarily played indoor the previous decade, including at Stanford from 2007-10 after being the Gatorade National Player of the Year coming out of high school.

MORE: Brazil volleyball star faints during courtside interview

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Katie Ledecky extends 5-year win streak

Leave a comment

Katie Ledecky extended a five-year domestic win streak by taking the 200m freestyle at the Tyr Pro Swim Series at Bloomington on Saturday.

In her last full meet before July’s world championships, Ledecky clocked 1:55.80 to beat training partner Simone Manuel by 1.44 seconds for her second win in as many days. Ledecky is also entered in Sunday’s 800m free on the last day of the meet.

Ledecky, who also cruised to a 400m free victory on Friday, ranks third in the world in the 200m free this year, behind Australian Ariarne Titmus and Swede Sarah Sjöström (the Olympic silver medalist who is not expected to race the 200m free at worlds).

Ledecky, a five-time Olympic champion, hasn’t lost a 200m, 400m, 800m or 1500m free final at a domestic meet since Allison Schmitt beat her in a 200m free on Jan. 18, 2014 when Ledecky was 16 years old.

BLOOMINGTON: Full Results

But Ledecky lost the two biggest 200m frees of this Olympic cycle so far, at the 2017 World Championships and the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships. Italian veteran Federica Pellegrini handed Ledecky her first individual final defeat at a major international meet at 2017 Worlds.

Ledecky dropped to third in the 200m free at Pan Pacs in Tokyo last year, beaten by younger swimmers Taylor Ruck of Canada and Rikako Ikee of Japan.

Ruck, who like Ledecky trains at Stanford, is in Bloomington, but she chose not to swim the 200m free on Saturday. She instead swam the 200m backstroke about 45 minutes after the 200m free and was upset by 17-year-old Regan Smith. Smith won in 2:06.47, moving to No. 3 in the world this year.

In other events Saturday, Ella Eastin captured the 400m individual medley in 4:37.18, taking 1.25 seconds off her personal best and moving to fifth in the world this year. Eastin is not on the world championships team after an untimely bout with mono before qualifying meets last summer.

Blake Pieroni won the men’s 200m free in 1:47.25. No American ranks in the top 20 in the world this year. World silver medalist Townley Haas did not enter Bloomington.

MORE: Olympic breaststroke champion faces ban for missed drug tests

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!