Jaelin Kauf (left) celebrates her third place podium alongside Australia's Britt Cox and Canada's Andi Naude. (U.S. Ski Team - Steve Earl)
PARK CITY, UT (Feb. 4, 2017) – In a way, it was déjàvu all over again - a repeat of last season as American Jaelin Kauf (Alta, WY) matched her third place finish in dual moguls in the Visa Freestyle International World Cup at Deer Valley Resort. But beyond the repeat podium for Kauf, it was an evening filled with ‘almosts’ that foreshadow a bright future for U.S. moguls skiing.
Over 10,000 fans packed Deer Valley Saturday night to watch freestyle skiing’s biggest show worldwide - dual moguls on Champion. And the show didn’t disappoint. Despite showing some kinks in his armor, Canadian superstar Mikael Kingsbury prevailed over teammate Marc-Antone Gagnon for the win, with rising Australian star Brodie Summers third for a career first podium.
For the women, it was World Cup leader Brittany Cox of Australia knocking off Canada’s Andi Naude - but only after Cox survived a strong run from 16-year-old American Olivia Giaccio (Redding, CT) in the semifinals.
Kauf had a strong evening, eventually losing to Canada’s Naude in the semi finals and facing Giaccio.
Olivia Giaccio (left) and Jaelin Kauf race down the Champion mogul run. (U.S. Ski Team - Steve Earl)
“I knew I needed to ski fast and beat everyone down the middle part of the course,” said Kauf. “Olivia was really killing it out there. She was really pushing me and it was awesome to see her out there.”
For the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team, the storyline was a wealth of positive movement by a young team that is on the verge of a breakout. Of the 32 athletes that made it into the finals, 13 were Americans - six men and seven women. Along the way, they did some damage up against some of the sports’ best. At the end of the night, there were three men in the top eight, three women in the top six.
“A lot of the young skiers stepped it up tonight and skied really well,” said Moguls Head Coach Matt Gnoza. “Emerson Smith stepped up with a nice middle section, locking in his turns. Joel Hedrick stepped it up into the top 16. A lot of guys are making their first World Cup finals.”
Giaccio was a good example. She won four straight duals to find herself standing next to the World Cup leader with a chance at the finals. While Cox took the win, Giacco never backed down and pushed her bump after bump right down to the finish. And in the small final against Kauf, the World Cup rookie again matched her turn for turn down most of the course, losing the battle but recording a career best fourth place finish.
Olivia Giaccio (left) skis a strong run against World Cup leader Britt Cox (AUS). (Getty Images - Matthew Stockman)
“I love duals - it’s super fun and a great chance for redemption,” she said. “Today I didn’t have any expectations - just to go out and ski my run. I was pushing pace all day - there are some speedy girls up there. This is a great course on Champion and an awesome atmosphere.”
Emerson Smith (Dover, VT), just 19 and in only his fifth World Cup, had a career best eighth. Along the way he took three notable wins - including knocking out teammate Troy Murphy (Park City, UT) - before skiing out in a brilliant matchup against Summers.
Dylan Walczyk (Rochester, NY) led the men in fifth. Murphy, who led with a fifth two nights earlier, was knocked out by Smith and finished 13th. Thomas Rowley (Long Beach, NY) had another good night, finishing sixth.
“I think Murphy and Rowley are in line to start getting some podiums,” said Gnoza. “Ever since Ruka, they’ve been making steps each week - and the next step is the podium.”
Morgan Schild (Rochester, NY), who scored a World Cup win on Thursday night, failed to make it out of the qualifying rounds. Keaton McCargo (Telluride, CO) ended up sixth and remains the top-ranked U.S. women in the World Cup standings at six. K.C. Oakley (Piedmont, CA), continued her strong return from injury season in tenth.
The team is now heading to Phoenix Park in PyeongChang for the Olympic moguls and aerials test events next weekend.
Jaelin Kauf scored her second career World Cup podium, matching the third place finish she recorded at Deer Valley a year ago.
Kauf led three U.S. women into the top six.
Dylan Walczyk was the top U.S. man in fifth, leading three into the top eight.
The USA qualified 13 into the round of 16 finals - seven women and six men.
The World Cup tour now heads to PyeongChang, South Korea for the Olympic test event.
Jaelin Kauf I knew I needed to ski fast and beat everyone down the middle part of the course. Olivia was really killing it out there. She was really pushing me and it was awesome to see her out there.
It’s awesome here at Deer Valley - I love having the crowd here and my family.
Olivia Giaccio I love duals - it’s super fun and a great chance for redemption. Today I didn’t have any expectations - just to go out and ski my run. I was pushing pace all day - there are some speedy girls up there. This is a great course on Champion and an awesome atmosphere.
Matt Gnoza, Moguls Head Coach A lot of the young guys stepped it up tonight and skied well. Emerson Smith stepped it up - really nice middle section, locked in his turns. Joel Hedrick stepped it up making the top 16 - a lot of guys making their first World Cup finals.
I think Murphy and Rowley are in line to start getting some podiums. Ever since Ruka, they’ve been making steps each week - and the next step is the podium. We’re looking forward to competing in Korea and keeping this momentum going.