SIERRA NEVADA, SPAIN - Debutant Ikuma Horishima on Wednesday became the first Japanese man to capture moguls gold at the Freestyle World Ski Championships.
The 19-year-old was helped by a costly mistake by Canadian gold medal favorite Mikael Kingsbury, who touched the snow with his hand when landing an air maneuver too deep on his second run and snapped his skies in anger after crossing the finish line.
While Horishima, the only competitor to clock under 22 seconds in the qualification run, earned 88.54 points, Benjamin Cavet of France earned silver with 87.11 points, and Kingsbury, winner of nine World Cup events this season, took bronze with 82.85 points.
“I’m really happy. I cried a little,” said Horishima, who won double gold at the recent Asian Winter Games in Sapporo.
“I tried to go aggressively and surprised myself by the way I performed. With my current skills, I thought the only way to win would be to be aggressive and give out my 120 percent. I surpassed myself.”
Aiko Uemura, who won gold in the women’s moguls and dual moguls, both at the 2009 worlds, was the previous Japanese moguls world champion.
Tae Satoya is the first and only other Japanese to be crowned champion in freestyle skiing at a major international competition, having struck gold in the women’s moguls at the 1998 Nagano Winter Games.
Despite his recent victories, Horishima, a student at Chukyo University, said he cannot continue to count on his rivals to make mistakes and must develop mental toughness as he sets his sights on the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics to be held in February 2018.
“I think I made my name known to my world, but I can be mentally weak at times,” he said. “I’ve been saying my goal is to win gold in Pyeongchang, and for that I want to train harder.
Three other Japanese men — Daichi Hara, Nobuyuki Nishi and Sho Endo — did not advance to the final.
Miki Ito, the lone Japanese competing in the women’s moguls discipline, withdrew due to a right knee injury.