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If China’s covid restrictions had allowed foreign fans into the Genting Snow Park on Saturday night to watch Olympic men’s moguls, every US flag would have been flying for Nick Page in the six-man super-final. Page, 19, was the lone American to survive all the elimination rounds and was, therefore, the only American to have a shot at a medal. If the Park City skier could beat just three other skiers in the super-final, he would end a 12-year medal drought for the US men. And if he could beat four of them, he would outshine his coach, Bryon Wilson, who had captured the bronze in Vancouver in 2010.
But winning the gold was a massive ask.
It would require unseating “The King,” Mikael Kingsbury, the defending Olympic champion from Canada who had won nearly everything in men’s moguls—multiple times—for the past 12 years. On the World Cup alone (sit down for this), Kingsbury made the podium 101 times in 120 starts, including 71 victories.
Under the Saturday night lights, Kingsbury, 29, looked solid again. The Quebec native usually skis so smoothly and efficiently that exertion can be hard to detect. He earned his best score of the Olympics, 82.18, but ultimately, Kingsbury was beaten by 1.05 points, by a faster and cleaner-jumping skier who, like Page, had zero World Cup victories.
Sweden’s Walter Wallberg was the last man down the course. He knew the score to beat. At age 21, he was coming back from three knee surgeries over the past two years, but when you’re skiing last, “You can be a bit strategic,” he said. “I just tried to ski a bit faster and still keep the level of jumping that I did the runs before.”
Blazing down the Secret Garden Olympic Moguls Course in 23.70 seconds, Wallberg scored 83.23 to dethrone the Wayne Gretzky of bump skiing, relegate Japan’s Ikuma Horishima to bronze with 81.48, and bump Page to fifth with 78.90.
Moments before the press conference, Wallberg chatted with the Sweden’s prime minister, Magdalena Andersson. “She told me, ‘Well done,’ she was impressed with my skiing. We were talking a bit about how I’m going to celebrate and that the [pandemic] restrictions in Sweden are gone so it’ll probably be a special one, so I thank her for that,” Wallberg said.
Kingsbury, when asked if Saturday’s loss meant that his reign was ending, said, “Ahh, no. I mean he can sit on the throne today. It was a special run that he did. I told him, ‘Welcome to the club. It’s a pretty special club.’” Then Kingsbury recited the names of the seven other Olympic champions in order, including American Jonny Moseley. “I’ll keep going. I love what I do. I’ll keep working hard for the next few years.”
Meanwhile, Page wasn’t complaining. “It was close,” he said, admitting that he had hoped to walk away with the gold medal. “I was really happy with that last super-final run. I executed the landings, I skied well in the middle, and I was able to do everything I was trying to.”
Also of note: Page’s training buddy since age 8, Cole McDonald, placed 14th, which was remarkable considering that McDonald wasn’t even on the national team six months ago.
“Going into the season, my goal was just to get one World Cup start,” McDonald said, and at a FIS Open in Sweden on November 21, 2021, he not only beat all the US skiers to win, but he also beat Horishima and Wallberg (Saturday’s Olympic bronze and gold medalists). The US subsequently put him on the World Cup tour and on December 4, he placed fifth in Ruka, Finland, the top American once again. Two months later, McDonald led the US in the Olympic qualifying run and made the first run of the finals. He, too, was pleased with his Olympic debut and says he will continue to 2026 when Milano Cortina, Italy, hosts the Games.
Dylan Walczyk of Rochester, N.Y. finished 16th, proud of his final run on Saturday. “I upped the [degree of difficulty] a little bit. I thought it was a great run. I was hoping it would score a little higher,” he said.
The Games were a bit rougher for Bradley Wilson, the only Olympic veteran on the US men’s moguls team and coach Bryon’s younger brother. On Thursday, he skied off course in the first qualifying round, explaining to Hannah Kearney, the 2010 Olympic gold medalist in women’s moguls, that he had been trying to find his line, got bumped forward and “had to bail or die.”
So it was all-or-nothing in Saturday’s last-chance qualifier, but after he saw his score, he knew his third and final Olympic appearance was over. The Montana native placed 25th, waved to the camera, and said, “Love you, freestyle! Love you, America! Love you, Butte!”
Moguls competition continues on Sunday with the women’s finals featuring Americans Jaelin Kauf, Hannah Soar, Olivia Giaccio (who landed a historic cork 1080 in January), as well as the opening run for Kai Owens who crashed in training on the Beijing course last week and skipped Thursday’s qualifier with a black eye. If she finishes in the top-10 in Sunday’s last-chance qualifier, she will join her countrywomen in the final rounds.