Parkites Wilson, Kauf earn silver medals in World Championship dual moguls
When the dual moguls World Championship was over, Brad Wilson was smiling ear to ear.
He wasn’t first, but he was darn close.
The 26-year-old Parkite had beaten Canadian moguls phenomenon Mikael Kingsbury, the GOAT, down the mountain, but he had not bested him in points. In that category, Wilson was three points shy.
But he wasn’t going to let those three points keep him from enjoying the moment.
“It’s sweet,” Wilson said, still surrounded by fans at the base of Deer Valley Resort’s Champion Run on Saturday evening. “Walking away with a World Championship medal, I’m so stoked. To do it here at Deer Valley is also pretty special, too.”
Then a large man walked into the interview, and Wilson, not at all surprised, greeted his grandfather.
“I’m so proud,” his grandfather said. “My hero.”
Wilson embraced him in a hug.
It had been a long road to the finals.
The dual moguls World Championship started with a qualifying round of 64. Those racers competed side-by-side down the course, their times, turns and tricks evaluated and compared, with the winner advancing to the next round.
That group was whittled down from 32 to a round of 16, where Wilson defeated Andrei Makhnev of Russia in a clean run, then advanced to the quarterfinals where he skied away from Japan’s Ikuma Horishima, who fell.
Wilson then faced Daichi Hara of Japan. Hara had earned bronze the night before in single moguls, but he lost control against Wilson and careened through the lower jump into a double backflip, earning a DNF in the process.
Only after those competitions did Wilson finally face Kingsbury, who set the record for most World Cup moguls victories at Deer Valley last year, with 47.
Wilson and Kingsbury flew from the gate at the top of the hill, with Kingsbury putting down a cork 1080 to Wilson’s 720.
Wilson started to pull away from Kingsbury in the middle section, but his added speed came at a cost. He almost lost control, his legs separating and his body losing sync, then pulled himself together in time for the bottom jump. He aired out a backflip, then sped across the line, pumping his hands by his hips as if demanding victory from the course itself.
Behind him, Kingsbury remained calm and collected, laying down his sewing-machine turns even as Wilson crossed the line.
“I thought I had won,” Wilson said. “But Mik, the run that he did clean, cork 10 up top. He had me beat, I had to ski a little bit faster and I had to have a perfect run. I made that little mistake which got me second. But here I am, stoked still.”
At the rate Wilson was going, he knew there was a chance of crashing out, but that’s the nature of racing against Kingsbury.
“He pushes me to my ultimate limits and past my limits,” Wilson said. “He is somebody you’re going to push yourself with. Everybody he competed against, he’s never going to have an easy dual.”
Wilson had taken third at the VISA Freestyle International World Cup at Deer Valley the year before, and he was happy to earn second on the hill that sponsors him.
Wilson said he probably wouldn’t go to sleep with a big smile on his face, but only because he probably wouldn’t sleep at all.
He had family visiting from his home state of Montana, plus friends from Park City, where he lives, who had come up to watch him race.
It was time to celebrate.
Americans go head to head, then medal
Jaelin Kauf and Tess Johnson had been trying to double up in medal positions all season. Kauf is a frequent medalist, while Johnson is having a breakout season.
On Saturday, the two went head-to-head in the dual moguls semi-finals.
They stood at the top of Champion Run, the sound of a heartbeat playing over the public address system, staring straight down the hill. Neither cast so much as a glance toward the competitor across the aisle.
“We rode up the chair together before and we promised each other that we were going to have fun and give the crowd a good show,” Johnson said. “And that’s what we did, for sure.”
Then the gate opened and they were off, two identical images, in the same uniforms on the same course, performing the same tricks.
But Kauf, 26, pulled away and kept the lead across the finish line.
Johnson, 18, was close behind.
At the bottom, they wrap their arms around each other, and swayed back and forth, their poles sticking out from the hug.
“For some reason I feel like I always duel my teammates on this course, which is a little bittersweet,” Kauf said. “But I knew that we could still both get on the podium and we’ve been working for that all year, so it was incredible.”
Johnson edged out newly crowned singles world champion Yulia Galysheva of Kazakhstan in the small finals to take bronze.
Kauf, who lives and trains in Park City, was defeated by 2017 world champion Perrine Laffont of France in the finals, and took silver.
After the medals ceremony, fans poured into the finish area, where they celebrated with Kauf and Johnson.
“It was incredible to be able to get on that podium with her,” Kauf said of Johnson. “That was incredible.”
Kauf had earned a bronze in the dual moguls world championships in 2017.
Her next step was clear.
“Next time,” she said, “will be gold.”
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With over 90 teams and 1,100 athletes, the Triple Crown Fastpitch World Series returns to Park City this week 16U and 18U tournaments.