Jaelin Kauf earns silver in Olympic moguls
Jaelin Kauf isn’t just a little bit faster than her competition.
The U.S. skier was the only competitor to break the 27-second barrier, coming across the finish line in 26.37 seconds in the women’s moguls super final at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. She was almost three seconds faster than a majority of her competition.
Kauf looked on with anticipation as she waited at the bottom after her last run, as the judges decided if her speed was worth a medal.
Then as 80.28 appeared in front of her, her jaw dropped. The shock flashed on her face for a fraction of a second and was quickly replaced by glee. The former Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club athlete was in the gold medal position.
With just one skier to go, she was guaranteed to stand on the podium.
“I was like, ‘OK I don’t know what (the judges) are going to do,’” Kauf said. “’I gave everything I had, but was it good enough?’ Then when the score popped up, and I realized I had a guaranteed medal, I was over the moon.”
Teammate and super finals competitor Olivia Giaccio ran out to hug Kauf. In the crowd, Kauf’s boyfriend and Olympic freestyle skier Brad Wilson jumped and shouted.
Kauf’s family couldn’t make the trip due to fan restrictions in Beijing, but they cheered from a gathering in Tetonia, Idaho. Kauf was happy to have her teammates and boyfriend with her to celebrate.
“It means everything. Brad, he has just been such a big part of that support system,” Kauf said. “Of course, I’m very bummed my family can’t be here, but I’ll be home to celebrate with them in a few days.”
Minutes later, Australian Jakara Anthony, who was the best skier all evening, bumped Kauf off the top of the podium to take gold in the event at the Genting Snow Park on Sunday, Feb. 6. With her silver medal, Kauf earned the first medal by an American woman moguls skier since 2014.
Kauf, a 2014 graduate of Steamboat Springs High School, was the fastest skier in all three rounds, advancing to the super final in the No. 2 spot. Upon learning she was in the gold medal seat, Kauf only had to wait for one more skier to compete before learning where she would stand on the podium.
Anthony led after the first final and the second final, after winning the first qualifier earlier in the week. She made history for her country by earning the first-ever medal for an Aussie women’s moguls skier.
“At that point, I was just so happy to get a medal,” Kauf said. “She was going to do what she was going to do and was a favorite throughout the whole event. … I had done everything I could at that point. It was what it was. I was getting a medal. I was happy just knowing that.”
Four years ago at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, Kauf was a medal favorite, but she fell short of the super final and took seventh.
“Could have done more,” she told Steamboat Pilot & Today after the disappointing performance.
This year, that was not the case.
“I definitely think I put it all out there, and that was definitely the biggest takeaway from the last Olympics,” Kauf said. “(In Pyeongchang), I was skiing more to qualify, to do just enough to make it into the next round and left just a little bit out there. This time, I was skiing to win. I’m giving it 100% every single time. … I learned that lesson that nothing is guaranteed.”
Kauf competed alongside teammate and former SSWSC athlete Olivia Giaccio.
Giaccio went first in the superfinal. The run was fast and mostly clean, but it wasn’t medal worthy. She faltered on her top landing, and on the bottom air, she opted not to attempt the cork 1080 that she made history with a month ago when she became the first woman to land it in a World Cup competition.
Giaccio finished the competition in sixth. U.S. teammate Hannah Soar earned seventh, and Kai Owens, of Vail, took 10th.
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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