Americans close out World Cup with podium finishes | ParkRecord.com

Americans close out World Cup with podium finishes

Athletes loved environment and conditions at Deer Valley

The Visa Freestyle International started with a bang for Team USA on the opening night when mogul skier Morgan Schild found her way back to the top of the podium with an impressive first-place showing, despite returning to the World Cup tour just last month after 22 months of rehab.

However, no American, male or female, was able to occupy the top spot in either the aerial or dual mogul competitions. Even so, Team USA still made its presence known on the final two days of competition at Deer Valley.

Kiley McKinnon flew her way to a second-place finish on Friday in the women's aerial contest with a full, double-full in the final round. Her score of 95.17 was narrowly edged out by Lydia Lassila of Australia. Meanwhile, fellow American Jaelin Kauf worked her way to the dual mogul Small Final on Saturday. She ultimately topped fellow American Olivia Giaccio for third place.

"It was a very exciting day for me," McKinnon said. "I haven't been jumping so well this season so far, so to be able to get on the podium here at Deer Valley in front of my friends and family definitely helps with my confidence. I'm really excited about it."

Kauf also grabbed the bronze medal at last year's women's dual mogul competition at Deer Valley. Both are the only World Cup podiums of her career.

For McKinnon, though, her first podium finish of the season was especially sweet. Not only did she save her best performance for her friends and family, but Friday's aerial competition served as the first Olympic qualifier for the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang.

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McKinnon was hoping to qualify for the 2014 Games, but a dislocated elbow kept her from doing so. With her performance on Friday, she's got an early jump on the competition with the Winter Olympics just about a year away.

"I tried to not think about that at all," McKinnon said of the Olympic qualifier. "I didn't want to put any extra pressure [on myself]. I just wanted to do the jumps I knew I could do and to be able to podium is pretty amazing."

Though they can't all share spots on the podium, most of the American athletes, if not all of them, shared the sentiment that they're sad the Visa Freestyle International is over. Deer Valley is one of just two American stops on the tour. Several American athletes commented on how much they look forward to this event in the opening press conference last week.

One of them was Mac Bohonnon, who just missed the podium by finishing in fourth place in the men's aerial competition. Even so, Bohonnon still had nothing but positive things to say about the venue and the courses built at Deer Valley, which isn't the case for all of the stops on tour.

"Psyched to come out with all my competition jumps on my feet and be in the mix in a night as tough as this in front of this unbelievable crowd at Deer Valley," Bohonnon said. "This was such a fun event. We love competing here. I want to thank my coaches, all the support staff, the volunteers here at Deer Valley and, of course, this crowd. They're unreal. They made this event special for us."

Other notable finishes from Team USA at the Visa Freestyle International came from Dylan Walczyk (fifth in men's dual moguls), Eric Loughran (sixth in men's aerial), Troy Murphy (fifth in men's moguls) and Nessa Dziemian (fifth in women's moguls).