BY: The Canadian Press
TORONTO – Mikael Kingsbury and Canada’s freestyle ski team work so hard that sleepwalking has become a hazard.
Kingsbury, from Deux-Montagnes, Que., is thriving in the demanding World Cup schedule as he closes in on his fourth straight Crystal Globe as the best freestyle skier in the world this season. Even with his focus on the next race, Kingsbury occasionally gets distracted by bouts of somnambulism.
“When we were going to the world championships, one of my teammates, Marc-Antoine Gagnon, sleepwalked on the plane. He was asleep, he had his mask on and he was dreaming that he was getting attacked by bees,” said Kingsbury with a laugh on Wednesday. “He got out of his seat and started running through the aisles, started climbing up on people in the plane. He was like six or seven rows behind his seat. Someone had to wake him up — he still had his mask on!”
Added Kingsbury: “A couple of years ago I broke my toe before a race while sleepwalking. We’re big sleepwalkers on our team. We’re too tired because we don’t have a time zone. We’re in Japan, we’re in Europe, back in America, back to Japan, back to Europe. We travel a lot.”
It may be a tiring lifestyle, but Kingsbury enjoys it.
“It’s worth it. It’s fun. I’ve been travelling like this since I was 17, 18 years old, around the world. There’s not a lot of people my age who’ve seen the planet like I have. We’re lucky to travel like that,” said the 22-year-old Kingsbury. “We’re living the dream. Some of my friends wanted to play in the NHL, but I always wanted to be a World Cup skier and win medals and be one of the best skiers in the world.”
Kingsbury could make that goal by the end of the season. He’s already the most successful Canadian moguls skier ever with 26 World Cup victories, and he’s just two wins away from tying the all-time record, held by France’s Edgar Grospiron.
“When I’m skiing I’m not thinking about that,” said Kingsbury, while acknowledging that matching Grospiron would be a special accomplishment. “I’m a guy that likes records, they keep me motivated. I can write my name in the history books. If I finish strong this season I could do it.
“One thing at a time though. This isn’t my focus. It’s just a fun thing.”
The Olympic silver medallist has only improved since the Sochi Games, winning his fifth straight World Cup on Saturday. He’s got a sizable lead in the overall standings with 529 points, well ahead of Russia’s Alexandr Smyshlyaev (281).
With three events left this season, Kingsbury is 53 points away from claiming the Crystal Globe title again. Smyshlyaev would need to earn silver in all three remaining World Cups this season and Kingsbury would have to sit out the remaining competitions for the Russian to finish the season on top of the leaderboard.
“Crystal Globes are like the Stanley Cup in our sport, so it’s pretty big,” said Kingsbury. “I’m a very consistent skier, I gain a lot of points every race. This year it was one of my goals to have it locked up by the final World Cup of the season so I wouldn’t even have to worry.”
Although Crystal Globes and World Cup victories are rewarding, Kingsbury sees them as steps toward his ultimate goal: a return to an Olympic podium.
The 2014 Winter Games were his first Olympic competition, and the experience left a strong impression on him. Not just skiing against the world’s elite — after all, he’s used to that — but taking in all the other sports and seeing the magnitude of the Games.
“To go watch many of the events and compete, I realized there that the Olympics are huge,” said Kingsbury. “I’m very excited for the next one, but there’s still a lot of steps before then. I want to focus on one race at a time and try to be at my best every time I’m in the start gate.
“When we’re in Pyeongchang in Korea I’ll be ready to win that gold medal.”