Japanese moguls sensation Horishima ready for PyeongChang

Ikuma Horishima took the moguls world by storm in March 2017, becoming the first person to complete a moguls/dual moguls double at the FIS Freestyle Ski and Snowboard World Championships in Sierra Nevada. A relative unknown prior to his stunning performance, the Japanese skier was the winner of the last stage of the World Cup before PyeongChang 2018, and will figure large among the favourites for gold at Phoenix Park on 12 February.

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Pitting Horishima against the USA’s Bradley Wilson, the men’s dual moguls final at the 2017 World Championships in Sierra Nevada (ESP) was dramatic to say the least, with both men taking a tumble after the first jump.

Yet after hitting the snow, the 19-year-old Japanese freestyler had time to recover and put in a huge off-axis 720 on the second jump, while Wilson fell so close to the obstacle that he had no option but to walk over it. 

Though Horishima crossed the finish line just behind the American, his spectacular jump gave him a 20-15 points win. Victorious in the moguls the day before, Horishima had made history, becoming the youngest ever winner of the two events and the first man to complete the double at the World Championships.

“I was very nervous at the start gate, but I also knew I was strong,” said an elated Horishima, who had earlier knocked out Canadian moguls king Mikael Kingsbury in the quarter-finals. “When I fell, I knew I’d get back up and finish the run, no matter what. That’s what I did and now I’m the double world champion.” 

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Going global

In clinching his first world championship title, the Japanese rocket was the only athlete to dip under 22 seconds in both runs and posted the highest score of the competition on his second run to finish ahead of Benjamin Cavet. Kingsbury had to content himself with bronze, though he did have the consolation of claiming a sixth overall World Cup title later in the season.

“I’m so happy, I cried a little,” added Horishima, who also won double gold at the Asian Games in Sapporo a month earlier. “I tried to go aggressively and I surprised myself with the way I performed. With my current skill set, I thought the only way to win would be to be aggressive and give 120 per cent. I surpassed myself. 

I’ve made it clear that my goal is to win in PyeongChang and I want to train harder to make that happen. Ikuma Horishima Japan - Ikuma Horishima Japan

“I think I’ve announced myself to the world, but I know I can be mentally weak at times. I’ve made it clear that my goal is to win in PyeongChang and I want to train harder to make that happen.”

Ikuma Horishima
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“With his combination of speed, control, tricks and fearlessness, Horishima is destined to be more than just a flash in the pan and can be expected to challenge the great Mikael Kingsbury for gold come the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018,” is the prognosis from the International Ski Federation (FIS). He put to an end Kingsbury’s set of 13 consecutive World Cup victories (over a one-year period), by beating him at Mont-Tremblant on 21 January 2018, less than three weeks before the Games.

It has been a remarkable transformation for Horishima, who made his FIS World Cup debut in 2013, aged just 15, but then failed to make much of an impression in his first few seasons on the international circuit. 

Prior to his double in the mountains of Andalusia, he had claimed just a single World Cup podium finish – in the dual moguls in Ruka (FIN) in December 2015 – and five top-10 placings, three of them coming in the 2016/17 season. 

Having now served notice of his lightning speed, Horishima is a genuine contender for Olympic gold in the oldest freestyle skiing competition on the programme, one that made its debut at the 1988 Calgary Games