Jaelin Kauf takes second in World Cup moguls series, first at nationals
On March 2, Jaelin Kauf finished second overall in the FIS World Cup moguls standings for the second year running. But the 22-year-old Parkite said that result belies the gains she and the U.S. team made this season.
In addition to notching another great year on the World Cup circuit, she reached some of her personal goals. Chief among them was consistency.
Kauf didn’t finish lower than fifth in any World Cup this season from the opening competition in Ruka, Finland on Dec. 7, through the last singles race in Shymbulak, Kazakhstan, on March 2.
“I think this is definitely my best season so far,” she said. “Last year … it seemed like every event I was going from being in the finals in one competition to having some big mistake and ending up 15th or 16th.”
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Last season’s volatility was evident both at the Deer Valley World Cups, where in one event she went from 16th in qualifying to first in finals, and at the Pyeongchang Winter Games, where she was on the outside of the super-finals bubble, finishing seventh overall.
This season, though, she made every super-final – she was always in the running for the podium, not as a wild card, but as a safe bet.
“To finally have that consistency is a big step,” she said in a call from her post-season getaway spot in Costa Rica, where she trades her skis for a surfboard for a couple weeks each year.
The only tinge of disappointment for Kauf comes about this year’s FIS World Championships at Deer Valley.
She took second in dual moguls, beating season-winner Perrine Laffont across the line but scoring lower than the French athlete, and the single moguls competition was the only time she placed outside that top-five mark, taking sixth.
“I definitely would have liked to do a little better in singles and get a podium spot,” she said. “But, like the rest of the season, it was really tough competition.”
She said all season there was a tight race for the podium, with several top athletes performing more difficult jumps than last season.
Yulia Galysheva of Kazakhstan, for example, finished fourth (533 points) this year, up from sixth (420) last season, and took first in single moguls at the World Championships; and Anthony Jakara of Australia, who finished third (545 points) this season, up from 16th (142) last season.
But Kauf’s teammates also improved. Tess Johnson finished fifth this season, up from seventh last season, and Nessa Dziemian finished the season just outside of the top-10, taking 12th after finishing 36th last year. Olivia Giaccio finished 11th this season after taking 12th in 2018.
The retirement of Keaton McCargo, one of the U.S.’s top moguls skiers, complicated the topic of overall quality, but the team’s success this season, along with other changes in the post-Pyeongchang landscape, was enough that Kauf can confidently say she’s the leader of the best team in the world. The Americans are likely only to improve.
“It’s an up-and-coming team with a lot of room to grow,” Kauf said.
Johnson and Giaccio are both 18, Dziemian is 24, and Kauf said the team is working together well.
“When one of us is on the podium or does a new trick, we all did that together, and when we failed we were all in that together,” she said. “That’s tough to find in this sport, but I think that’s also what makes us so strong.”
The icing on the cake for Kauf was taking first in both single and dual moguls at the U.S. moguls national championships in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire, March 16-17.
“It was awesome,” Kauf said. “I’ve been shooting for that single moguls win for a couple years. It means a lot to finally have that title.”
Last season, McCargo took first in single moguls, while Johnson took first in duals. Kauf was second in singles and 15th in duals.
Now, Kauf will take two weeks in Costa Rica before spending time in her hometown of Alta, Wyoming, and her adopted home of Park City, before returning to training.
“I definitely want to continue to build on the results and success I had this year and to continue to build that consistency, so instead of top five I will continue to move it up,” she said.
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It’s going to be at least another month before Summit County’s high school athletes have any chance of getting onto the field again.