PYEONGCHANG (Reuters) - Skiing against Mikael Kingsbury has proved a fruitless “cat and mouse game” for his rivals in recent years but the Canadian moguls sensation will be “beatable” at the Winter Olympics, according to Australia’s Matt Graham.
Kingsbury, known as the ‘Wayne Gretzky’ of mogul skiing, won a silver medal in Sochi behind compatriot Alexandre Bilodeau and is raging favourite to go one better in Pyeongchang after dominating the discipline for the last four years.
Graham, a finalist at Sochi, has been among a chasing pack frustrated by Kingsbury’s reign over the World Cup circuit but said the 25-year-old Quebecois will be vulnerable at the Phoenix Snow Park.
“Mikael’s an exceptional athlete. He’s ultra consistent and that’s what makes him so great,” the 23-year-old Graham told a news conference at the Alpensia Resort in Pyeongchang on Tuesday.
“He’s able to put runs in day in day out that are really high quality. A bad run for him is a second or third place which not many people can really say.
“But for us, he’s beatable. I know I can beat him, a bunch of other guys can beat him.
“Since he’s been on tour seven years ago, he’s set the standard really high and it’s just kind of felt like it’s a bit of a cat and mouse race, you know, we’re all just trying to chase him down.”
Graham is part of a competitive team of eight Australians in the moguls events and will hope to emulate his mentor Dale Begg-Smith, who claimed gold at the 2006 Turin Games.
His team mate Brodie Summers will also compete in the men’s moguls after a race to be fit after tearing a ligament in his right knee in September.
“My confidence has come back in leaps and bounds over the past two weeks,” the 24-year-old twice Olympian said.
“Getting on the course last night, I looked at it and I thought this would be a really good test for it because, as we’ve sort of discussed, the conditions are quite challenging and it’s a technical course.
“After the first two runs, I warmed up, I relaxed and had a really good time.”
Australia’s moguls team will skip Friday’s opening ceremony as qualification for their events starts on the same day.
People had been “spooked” by the bracing cold in the lead-up to the Games, Australia’s chef de mission Ian Chesterman said, but athletes would appreciate a warmer forecast of 2 degrees Celsius (36 Fahrenheit) for the opening ceremony.
“The weather gods have shined on us in some ways,” he said.
“Which is great because it means people will actually enjoy (the ceremony) rather than freeze through it.”
Editing by John O'Brien