Every time (Kingsbury) has always kind of got me. So to come out and see his score a little bit below mine, yeah, it was an awesome feeling. —Matt Graham
PARK CITY — Last winter Deer Valley became the place where Australian mogul skier Matt Graham earned his first World Cup podium.
This year, it became the place he finally beat the most dominant skier in the sport — Canadian and 2014 Olympic silver medalist Mikael Kingsbury.
Four times the 21-year-old Graham has stood on a World Cup podium, but Thursday night was the first time he was able to stand at the top. Just as he has four other times in World Cup competitions, Graham stood in the finish chute in first place watching Kingsbury ski the night’s final run.
“Every time (Kingsbury) has always kind of got me,” Graham said after he edged Kingsbury 83.48 to 82.75. “So to come out and see his score a little bit below mine, yeah, it was an awesome feeling. I’ve been kind of waiting and hoping to get on the top podium step for a while. So it’s really satisfying.” Kingsbury is two years older than Graham and has won nearly half of his 65 World Cup starts.
“Competing against a guy like that, he’s definitely the top guy,” Graham said of the two-time world champion. “He’s dominated the sport the last four or five years. So it's great to see myself kind of creep my way up, getting closer.”
Graham said he trains in Park City during the summer as well as some of the winter months. He had almost as warm a welcome as the U.S. athletes with a large contingent of Australian families in the crowd at Deer Valley. The locals also embrace the Australian team as they spend so much time in Park City and at Deer Valley.
“I could hear them cheering at the top,” he said. “Nothing is more motivating than that.”
Kingsbury said it was a bit disappointing to come in second, but he considers Graham a good friend, and he was happy for his success.
“When you have three wins in the World Cup in a row, you always, well, you don’t want anything except that,” he said. “So I’m a little bummed about that.”
Ludvig Fjallstrom of Sweeden was third with a score of 81.41, and it’s the first time a Swede has earned a spot on the podium at Deer Valley in six years.
On the women’s side, it was more familiar faces — and more Canadian team members. Justine Dufour-Lapointe, the 2014 Olympic gold medalist, won the World Cup, and retained the overall circuit lead, with a score of 77.80. Kazakhstan’s Yulia Galysheva was second with 77.75 points, and Justine’s older sister, Chloe Dufour-Lapointe was third with 77.11 points.
American rookie Jaelin Kauf, 19, finished sixth after earning the highest score of the semifinal round. It was her first trip the finals as she’s only competed in three World Cups in her career.
She said she was “a little” nervous, and then she shrugged and laughed a little.
“But I don’t have anything to lose,” she said. “I just had to ski my run.”
Kauf looked great until the bottom jump when she landed with her eight back and almost sat down on the snow. She said the course was perfect, and the support made it a lot more fun.
“It’s definitely nice having family and friends here all supporting us,” she said. “Just the atmosphere here is awesome.” A light in the silhouette of the late Stein Eriksen shone on the hillside adjacent to the Champion course, and there was a tribute to the Olympic champion and ski pioneer earlier in the afternoon.
Just before the finals began, a check for just over $90,000 was presented to the Stein Eriksen Youth Sports Alliance Opportunity Endowment Fund was presented to officials who oversee the year-old charity. Deer Valley officials donated $54 from every lift ticket sold Thursday to the fund.
They chose $54 because 1954 is the year Eriksen won his three Olympic gold medals in alpine skiing.
Friday features the aerial World Cup, with the finals beginning at 8 p.m. and fireworks following the awards ceremony.