Inside the Olympics: Jaelin Kauf’s fast feet give her an advantage

Jaelin Kauf skis down the Voodoo moguls run in Steamboat Springs.

This story was a part of the “What makes them great” feature in the Steamboat Today’s Inside the Olympics: 2018 Winter Olympics preview special section.

Jaelin Kauf’s first big breakthrough on the World Cup didn’t actually come in moguls as it will be contested at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

It came in dual moguls, a head-to-head event where skiers compete side by side. It’s not exactly a race.

The time down the course is only one of three factors that decide a winner, and it’s not the most important factor. It’s scored equally as important as an athlete’s tricks off of two mid-course jumps, and it’s worth one third as much as an athlete’s ability to ski through the field of bumps as rated by a panel of judges.

But, it’s hard for anyone to remember that time is only 20 percent of the total score when the skier in the other lane is pulling ahead.

That’s where Kauf’s speed is the most obvious, and it’s where all of the first breakthrough results of her career came from. She’s always hard to beat down the slope and has been untouchable in the most important runs.

Why? It comes down to three factors.

First, she’s cat-quick on her feet, a big advantage when it comes to bouncing between bumps.

“What really brings the wow factor to her run is the ability to move those feet,” said Kate Blamey, the elite moguls coach at Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.

Quick feet allow Kauf to keep her balance.

“The quicker you can move your feet, the more you can absorb the bumps,” Blamey said. “It allows her the ability to transfer her weight from bump to bump faster. … I’ve never seen anyone do an agility ladder as fast as Jaelin can. She’s so athletic, so quick, and that’s why she is where she is right now.”

Keeping her balance allows her to stay in control and that shows in her body from the waist up when she’s skiing.

“It just looks effortless,” said Scott Kauf, Jaelin’s father and a five-time champion on the World Pro Moguls Tour. “The quietness of her upper body and her hands really stands out, and that’s helping make sure she gets good ski-snow contact. From her head to her hips, it’s quiet and in control.”

Balanced and with strong body position, Jaelin Kauf is able to hit the bumps more smoothly than most of her competitors.

“Her turn and her speed go hand in hand. The way Jaelin absorbs the contour of the mogul and presses on the backside is really aggressive, and most women are a lot more defensive,” Steamboat Springs moguls skier Ryan Dyer said. “They’ll slide their feet sideways into the rut in a two-part motion. They’ll hit the mogul, then absorb it, then slide again and hit again. Jaelin, she takes a very direct path, and all in one motion she’s down the backside and absorbs the mogul. It’s a very fluid and efficient way to ski moguls. She snakes through the moguls.”

The quick feet, a stable body and an aggressive approach only saves a fraction of a second with each turn, but it adds up to big results at the bottom of the hill, and at the Olympics, it could give Kauf a gold-medal advantage.

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