Jaelin Kauf earns first career podium
After some questionable judging possibly cost her a podium spot during Thursday night’s moguls competition at the Deer Valley Freestyle World Cup, 19-year-old American Jaelin Kauf came back strong on Saturday night in the dual moguls competition.
With only a handful of World Cup starts under her belt, Kauf showed off her blazing speed again Saturday night on the Champion run. In the women’s semifinals, she fell behind early to Canadian Justine Dufour-Lapointe, the World Cup overall leader in dual moguls, but managed to fly by her at the finish line.
However, in dual moguls, speed is just one factor considered by the judges. They ruled that Dufour-Lapointe had a cleaner run and better tricks, so Kauf was relegated to the women’s small finals, where she defeated teammate Mikaela Matthews to earn the bronze medal, her first-ever podium finish.
With her father, Scott, and mother, Patti — both accomplished moguls skiers themselves — in attendance, Kauf said her first World Cup podium couldn’t have come at a better time.
"It’s amazing, especially on this course," she said. "This is my favorite course and all my family and everybody is here supporting me. It’s unbelievable. I’m glad it’s here."
Following her third-place run, Kauf headed toward the roaring Deer Valley crowd, where she was congratulated by the home-country fans.
"My family’s pretty excited as well," she said. "My dad lifted me up on his shoulders and everybody was cheering. It was pretty awesome."
After Thursday’s disappointment, Kauf said her father shared some simple words of encouragement before Saturday.
"He said, ‘I’m so proud of how you’re skiing. You’re doing so well, so keep doing it,’" she said.
Dufour-Lapointe ended up winning the big final against Kazakhstan’s Yulia Galysheva to earn her second gold medal of the weekend.
Kauf said her speed, which was on full display both Thursday and Saturday, makes dual moguls a better showcase of her talents. Moving forward, she said that will be a big factor in how she attacks other events.
"I’ve always loved duals," she said. "They’ve always been my favorite. I just need to keep doing the same thing I’ve been doing — just ski my run."
For the men, Thomas Rowley recorded the top finish for the Americans by placing seventh. Anthony Benna of France won the event, with Finland’s Jimi Salonen taking silver and Dmitriy Reiherd of Kazakhstan in third.
During his quarterfinal run against Reiherd, Rowley came awkwardly into the first jump, landing off-balance and never fully recovering before crashing shortly after.
"I kind of got caught up too forward and then almost fell and had to huck a little backflip [off the first jump] and I never had it back from there," he said. "I just kind of botched the takeoff and tried to make up for it."
However, after battling injuries most of the offseason and into the early part of this season, Rowley said he’d look at his result Saturday as a success.
"It was fun," he said. "I expect myself to get this far and even farther, but it didn’t work out for me this time. But it feels good after not skiing much this summer and fall because of injury. I’m getting it back. It’s definitely an improvement. Hopefully I can take this [momentum] into [the next competition in] Japan."
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After naming Wasatch Freestyle its freestyle program of the year last week, the program picked up another honor as coach Bryon Wilson was named the domestic freestyle coach of the year.