NEWS
02/03/2018 05:00 EST | Updated 02/06/2018 01:02 EST

OLYMPIC PREVIEW: Moguls star Kingsbury's confidence high going into Pyeongchang

MONTREAL — As much as Mikael Kingsbury has dominated World Cup moguls circuit, it is his one setback in the past year that feeds his drive to succeed.

And that may help him win the only prize missing from his trophy case — an Olympic gold medal.

Kingsbury was all-but unbeatable in World Cup freestyle skiing action last season, winning nine of 11 competitions, including seven in a row.

But his goal was to end the season with an unprecedented sweep of the moguls and dual moguls at the world championships in Sierra Nevada, Spain in March.

It didn't go well — third place in the moguls followed a day later by 13th in dual moguls. Instead of Kingsbury, it was relatively unknown Ikuma Horishima of Japan who took both titles.  

"I believe that everything happens for a reason," Kingsbury said in a recent interview. "I think it's good that it happened to me at that time. It keeps me on edge.

"When things didn't go the way I wanted at the world championships, it made me want to train even harder in the summer to prove to the others that it is in 2018 that it will happen."

And it gave Kingsbury added experience going into Pyeongchang to go with his performance at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, where he won a silver medal behind teammate Alex Bilodeau. He won't be overwhelmed by being at the Olympics this time.

"This time I have Olympic experience," said the Deux-Montagnes, Que., skier, who was a forerunner at the 2010 Games in Vancouver. "At my first Games in Sochi, I was like a little kid at Disneyland.

"It was a dream come true. I still won a medal, but just being there was incredible. I'll remember it all my life. In Pyeongchang, I'm going into something I know. I learned a lot from the last Games that I want to put to my advantage."

Kingsbury will be the favourite in Pyeongchang. But even if he has dominated the moguls with 70 top-three finishes, including a record 48 wins, in 87 career World Cups, he remains driven to do more.

"I love what I'm doing," he said. "An Olympic gold medal is a really big source of motivation.

"And I feel like I haven't reached my peak yet in my sport. I still have things to learn and improve."

Kingsbury ran off more wins to start the 2017-18 World Cup season but saw his streak of 13 in a row stopped at his home event at Mont-Tremblant, Que., where he finished second to Horishima.

He wasn't overly upset because Mont-Tremblant is not a difficult course, which tends to even out the field. His confidence remains high.

"I don't want to put all my focus on the gold medal," he said. "I prefer to concentrate on the details that will help me win in the end.

"I have to focus on myself, on my skiing, on the process. Those are the things that will get me to the final run with a clear head. I need to be able to go hard with no regrets and have the best run of my life."

There will be pressure, but Kingsbury is used to opponents trying to knock him off his pedestal.

"It's like you have a big target on your back," he said. "The others want to beat you.

"They watch you, film you, compare themselves to you. I'm not complaining. That's where I want to be. It motivates me, knowing the others are trying hard to beat me. It makes me want to go that much harder to prove I'm the best. Once you get a taste of being the best in the world you want to stay there."

It also helps his confidence that he likes the Olympic course in South Korea and won a test event on it last winter.

"It's not the most difficult but it's not easy either," he said. "It's the kind of course where I can give 100 per cent. It should make for a good show."