Mikael Kingsbury, one of the world’s dominant athletes, hits bump in moguls career

Mikael Kingsbury
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For a span of 10 years, Canadian moguls skier Mikael Kingsbury did not miss a World Cup event.

In that time, he became one of the most dominant athletes in any sport.

He won 63 times in 109 World Cup starts and finished on the podium 91 times. He’s tallied more World Cup wins than any other moguls skier (U.S. Olympic gold medalists Hannah Kearney and Donna Weinbrecht are next on the list with 46 each).

A four-time world champion (two each in moguls and dual moguls) and reigning Olympic champion, Kingsbury was ready to chase a 10th straight Crystal Globe this fall and winter. The award is given at season’s end to the top athlete on the World Cup tour, one for moguls and one combining all freestyle skiing disciplines.

But in early December, while the world’s best moguls skiers competed under the lights in Ruka, Finland at the first World Cup event, Kingsbury sat in an unfamiliar place: on the couch at his cabin in Quebec.

He had fractured the T4 and T5 vertebrae in his back while landing a jump in training in Finland. The injury is expected to require about six weeks of recovery. So, for the first time since 2010, Kingsbury was absent.

He was upbeat in an interview from home, though he admitted missing an event at his favorite course in Ruka – where he’s won eight times in 10 World Cup starts – was not ideal.

“It wasn’t fun to be sitting on my couch and looking at the guys ski,” he said.

Injuries are common in moguls, a punishing event involving sharp turns, aerial tricks and high speeds. Kingsbury was spared up to age 28, never missing a start due to injury. He once almost missed a World Cup event because he was sick.

“But I ended up winning,” he said with a smile.

Earlier this year, with training and travel limitations in place, Kingsbury purchased home gym equipment. A vigorous workout routine put him in the best shape of his life going into the season.

“I’m glad I did train a lot this summer because [the injury] could have been way worse if I didn’t put that much muscle [on] my body,” he said.

Kingsbury’s statistics are mind bending. Thanks to his 91 top-three finishes, he has an eye-popping 83% podium rate on the World Cup circuit (Mikaela Shiffrin makes the World Cup podium 72% of the time in her best discipline of slalom).

He didn’t finish worse than second in 10 World Cup starts last season. One season earlier, he missed the podium only once. Kingsbury admitted the numbers are intriguing, even if they aren’t top-of-mind.

“I love statistic[s], I love looking at what the others have done in the past and what I’m doing,” he said. “But when I ski, I don’t ski for the stats, and I don’t ski thinking about numbers. … If I focus on the right thing, then every time I step into the start gate, I know I can win.”

When Kingsbury was 9, he printed the Olympic rings on a piece of paper. Below it, he wrote, “Je vais gagné” (I will win) and taped it to the ceiling above his bed to look at each night before he went to sleep. After Kingsbury won gold in PyeongChang, his brother amended the sign to read, “Tu as gagné” (you won).

The joy of moguls hasn’t faded.

“What I love about this sport is still the same as when I was 10 years old,” he said. “There’s no perfection, so you can always improve. … Every day you wake up, and you can have a new goal, a new challenge.

“A lot of people are asking me, you must be bored of winning or being on the podium, but not really. Because the story and the strategy behind every win is so different than the week before.”

Kingsbury checked all of the items off his career bucket list. But he would still like to match countryman Alexandre Bilodeau‘s feat of winning two Olympic moguls titles.

“I want to check them all again, if I can,” he said. “It’s just that the feeling of winning a Crystal Globe or a world championship or, at the peak, the Olympic Games … I love that feeling.”

Kingsbury also wants to keep honing his craft, fine-tuning the technical skills to hit a so-far unreached potential and push the sport to another level.

While he’s off the snow for a few weeks, he started riding a stationary bike at home, adjusting the handlebars to keep his back as straight as possible. He finished a 1,000-piece puzzle in two or three days. Next up: 1,500 pieces.

The injury puts him in an unfamiliar place: behind his competitors in points when he returns to the start gate after so many years of being chased.

“I don’t want to say [I’ll be] playing catch up, but yeah, it’s a different position for me right now,” he said. “So I’m going to try and learn from that experience. And I’ll be super motivated to heal and to do the right thing to be back.”

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2023 French Open men’s singles draw, scores

French Open Men's Draw
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The French Open men’s singles draw is missing injured 14-time champion Rafael Nadal for the first time since 2004, leaving the Coupe des Mousquetaires ripe for the taking.

The tournament airs live on NBC Sports, Peacock and Tennis Channel through championship points in Paris.

Novak Djokovic is not only bidding for a third crown at Roland Garros, but also to lift a 23rd Grand Slam singles trophy to break his tie with Nadal for the most in men’s history.

FRENCH OPEN: Broadcast Schedule | Women’s Draw

But the No. 1 seed is Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, who won last year’s U.S. Open to become, at 19, the youngest man to win a major since Nadal’s first French Open title in 2005.

Now Alcaraz looks to become the second-youngest man to win at Roland Garros since 1989, after Nadal of course.

Alcaraz missed the Australian Open in January due to a right leg injury, but since went 30-3 with four titles. Notably, he has not faced Djokovic this year. They could meet in the semifinals.

Russian Daniil Medvedev, the No. 2 seed, was upset in the first round by 172nd-ranked Brazilian qualifier Thiago Seyboth Wild. It marked the first time a men’s top-two seed lost in the first round of any major since 2003 Wimbledon (Ivo Karlovic d. Lleyton Hewitt).

No. 9 Taylor Fritz, No. 12 Frances Tiafoe and No. 16 Tommy Paul are the highest-seeded Americans, all looking to become the first U.S. man to make the French Open quarterfinals since Andre Agassi in 2003. Since then, five different American men combined to make the fourth round on eight occasions.

MORE: All you need to know for 2023 French Open

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2023 French Open Men’s Singles Draw

French Open Men's Singles Draw French Open Men's Singles Draw French Open Men's Singles Draw French Open Men's Singles Draw

At the French Open, a Ukrainian mom makes her comeback


Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina, once the world’s third-ranked tennis player, is into the French Open third round in her first major tournament since childbirth.

Svitolina, 28, swept 2022 French Open semifinalist Martina Trevisan of Italy, then beat Australian qualifier Storm Hunter 2-6, 6-3, 6-1 to reach the last 32 at Roland Garros. She next plays 56th-ranked Russian Anna Blinkova, who took out the top French player, fifth seed Caroline Garcia, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 on her ninth match point.

Svitolina’s husband, French player Gael Monfils, finished his first-round five-set win after midnight on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning. She watched that match on a computer before going to sleep ahead of her 11 a.m. start Wednesday.

“This morning, he told me, ‘I’m coming to your match, so make it worth it,'” she joked on Tennis Channel. “I was like, OK, no pressure.

“I don’t know what he’s doing here now. He should be resting.”

Also Wednesday, 108th-ranked Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis ousted three-time major champion Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland 3-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-3 in four and a half hours. Wawrinka’s exit leaves Novak Djokovic as the lone man in the draw who has won the French Open and Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz as the lone men left who have won any major.

The top seed Alcaraz beat 112th-ranked Taro Daniel of Japan 6-1, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2. The Spaniard gets 26th seed Denis Shapovalov of Canada in the third round. Djokovic, the No. 3 seed, swept 83rd-ranked Hungarian Marton Fucsovics 7-6 (2), 6-0, 6-3 to reach a third-round date with 29th seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

Svitolina made at least one major quarterfinal every year from 2017 through 2021, including the semifinals at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 2019. She married Monfils one week before the Tokyo Olympics, then won a singles bronze medal.

Svitolina played her last match before maternity leave on March 24, 2022, one month after Russia invaded her country. She gave birth to daughter Skai on Oct. 15.

Svitolina returned to competition in April. Last week, she won the tournament preceding the French Open, sweeping Blinkova to improve to 17-3 in her career in finals. She’s playing on a protected ranking of 27th after her year absence and, now, on a seven-match win streak.

“It was always in my head the plan to come back, but I didn’t put any pressure on myself, because obviously with the war going on, with the pregnancy, you never know how complicated it will go,” she said. “I’m as strong as I was before, maybe even stronger, because I feel that I can handle the work that I do off the court, and match by match I’m getting better. Also mentally, because mental can influence your physicality, as well.”

Svitolina said she’s motivated by goals to attain before she retires from the sport and to help Ukraine, such as donating her prize money from last week’s title in Strasbourg.

“These moments bring joy to people of Ukraine, to the kids as well, the kids who loved to play tennis before the war, and now maybe they don’t have the opportunity,” she said. “But these moments that can motivate them to look on the bright side and see these good moments and enjoy themselves as much as they can in this horrible situation.”

Svitolina was born in Odesa and has lived in Kharkiv, two cities that have been attacked by Russia.

“I talk a lot with my friends, with my family back in Ukraine, and it’s a horrible thing, but they are used to it now,” she said. “They are used to the alarms that are on. As soon as they hear something, they go to the bomb shelters. Sleepless nights. You know, it’s a terrible thing, but they tell me that now it’s a part of their life, which is very, very sad.”

Svitolina noted that she plays with a flag next to her name — unlike the Russians and Belarusians, who are allowed to play as neutral athletes.

“When I step on the court, I just try to think about the fighting spirit that all of us Ukrainians have and how Ukrainians are fighting for their values, for their freedom in Ukraine,” she said, “and me, I’m fighting here on my own front line.”

Svitolina said that she’s noticed “a lot of rubbish” concerning how tennis is reacting to the war.

“We have to focus on what the main point of what is going on,” she said. “Ukrainian people need help and need support. We are focusing on so many things like empty words, empty things that are not helping the situation, not helping anything.

“I want to invite everyone to focus on helping Ukrainians. That’s the main point of this, to help kids, to help women who lost their husbands because they are at the war, and they are fighting for Ukraine.

“You can donate. Couple of dollars might help and save lives. Or donate your time to something to help people.”

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