Favourites – Aerials
Starting on the women’s side of things it’s hard not to begin with Australia’s Laura Peel, who is coming off of another exceptional 2020/21 season where she not only managed to defend her World Cup title by earning her second straight crystal globe, but also claimed World Championships gold in Shymbulak – her second career World Championships title.
However, Peel will have a strong competition this season, with many athletes eager to steal her thunder, including her Australian compatriot Danielle Scott. Like Peel, Scott has triple flips in her trick repertoire, and definitely should be in the mix to perform well throughout the season.
Then let’s not forget the always-strong US squad, led by the veteran Ashley Caldwell, who will also have a strong support from their younger teammates Winter Vinecki, Megan Nick and Kaila Kuhn.
Going further down the list it will be exciting to see one of the sport’s greatest athletes return to competition, as we can look forward Xu Mengtao back in the mix after the Chinese team decided not to participate at World Cup in the 2020/21 season due to the pandemic. With 25 World Cup victories to her account, Xu will be leading a strong contingent of Chinese athletes highly motivated to make some noise in 2021/22 with their home-soil Olympics looming so large over proceedings.
Also to watch out for are the likes of Liubov Nikitina (RUS), Hanna Huskova (BLR), or the 2021 Rookie of the Year Megan Thenault (CAN), all of whom are well capable of jumping on top of the podium on a good day.
Moving to the men’s part of competition, we definitely need to start with Maxim Burov (RUS), as he’s coming of a tremendous 2020/21 season in which he won six competitions, claimed his career’s second crystal globe, and won two World Championships titles – one individual and one in the team event.
Beside Burov, the Russian team will be looking for strong performances from their other athletes – Stanislav Nikitin and Pavel Krotov, who both finished in overall top-5 this past World Cup campaign.
Then let’s move over to Swiss squad with Noe Roth, Pirmin Werner and Nicolas Gygax all developing into world class aerials athletes over the past few seasons while scoring some impressive results on the way, including World Cup crystal globes and World Championships medals.
Obviously, also on the men’s side we should see some fire coming from the Chinese team with Guangpu Qi looking to snag his career’s 15th World Cup victory this season, as well as add first Olympic medal to his list of achievements.
Finally, let’s not forget about our North American friends with Canada putting high hopes in Lewis Irving, and the USA pinning their hopes on the likes of Justin Schoenfeld, Christopher Lillis and Eric Loughran.
Favourites – Moguls
Looking to the moguls scene, it’s Perrine Laffont (FRA) who stands as the overwhelming favourite for the win at every single event she will enter in 2021/22. The French rider claimed her fourth consecutive crystal globe last season while also grabbing the World Championships gold medal in moguls to fulfil her long-time goal of winning all the major titles in mogul skiing.
Also to watch out for is Anri Kawamura of Japan, last season’s number two in the ranking, along with her teammates Hinako Tomitaka and Kisara Sumiyoshi, both of whom are expected to step things up from their respective seventh and eighth place at the end of 2020/21.
The US moguls team will have plenty of reasons to be excited about in the upcoming campaign as Hannah Soar, Kai Owens, Jaelin Kauf and Tess Johnson showed some impressive form last year taking spots from three to six in the overall ranking.
Then we have the likes of Australia’s Jakara Anthony and Brittney Cox, Yulia Galysheva and Anastasia Gorodko out of Kazakhstan, as well as the Canadians Justine and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe, Berkley Brown and Maia Schwinghammer.
And finally, we’ll wrap up our look at the favourites on the women’s side by mentioning the Russian duo of up-and-comers Anastasia Smirnova and Viktoriia Lazarenko, who stormed to a 1-2 result for the Russian team in dual moguls at the World Championships in Almaty last season.
Over to the men’s side of things and we start with the greatest moguls skier of all-time, as Mikael Kingsbury remains the undisputed “King of Moguls” into his 13th season of World Cup action. Kingsbury should be as motivated as he’s ever been to win everything there is to win in 2021/22, after missing significant time last season due a back injury.
Because of the injury, last season was the first in 10 years that we didn’t see Kingsbury celebrate with the crystal globe in his hands once the season wrapped up in Almaty. Still, the 29-year-old won every event he entered after his comeback in February 2021 while also snagging two World Championships gold medals, to take top spot atop the all-time FIS Freestyle world champs medal rankings in the process.
Then we have Ikuma Horishima (JPN), who is the only rider to win against Kingsbury since 2019, and who has the trick repertoire, the speed and the push to Kingsbury at every competitions. One of the most entertaining skiers in moguls, it’s must-watch action every time Horishima drops in on a moguls course, and we can’t wait to see the duo compete in moguls and dual moguls competitions this upcoming campaign.
And, of course, we can’t fail to mention Matt Graham, who was able to step up in Kingsbury’s absence last season and grab the moguls crystal globe, ahead of Ben Cavet (FRA) and Ludvig Fjallstrom (SWE), who completed the moguls overall podium in second and third place, respectively.
Then we have the likes of Brodie Summers (AUS), Marco Tade (SUI) and Dmitry Reikherd (KAZ), as well as the US athletes Bradley Wilson, Dylan Walczyk, and last year’s “Rookie of the Year” Nick Page, all of whom are expected to heat things up in 2021/22.
Last but not least, we’re also excited to see Walter Wallberg (SWE) back in the starting gate, after missing some considerable time due to injury. Wallberg had an impressive 2019/20 campaign and while we haven’t seen him competing on tour since February 2020, the Swedish rider is back and he showed some promising riding a couple of weeks ago at the FIS Open competitions in Idre Fjall. One thing we know is that the 21-year-old is hungry for good results and there’s no better chance to show it than in the Olympic season.