Steamboat moguls skiers podium at US selections
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — As Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club freestyle skier Wyatt Antkiewicz made his way down the U.S. Moguls Selections course, the crowd cheered.
“Go Bubba!” “You got this Bubba!”
When he stepped onto the podium after earning third place in the singles finals, they shouted “Bubba” even louder.
“My mom gave me that nickname when I was first born just because I was a big baby,” said Antkiewicz with a laugh. “I was pretty fat.”
Having long grown out of his baby chub, Antkiewicz earned an 83.6 to take third on Thursday, Jan. 9. He wasn’t the only SSWSC athlete on the podium, as Landon Wendler earned second, while U.S. Ski Team member Jesse Andringa picked up the victory.
Wendler also has a nickname, Lando, a shortened version of his name, but also a reference to Star Wars General Lando Calrissian. The crowd, filled with locals and passersby, yelled “Lando” as Wendler picked up an 83.9 on his final run. Andringa won with a 90.
“That was the main goal, to podium today, go for the win, as always,” said Wendler.
While Wendler had the confidence and the goal to win, Antkiewicz was going in just trying to ski relaxed and do his best in his first competition in a long while.
On the women’s side of the competition, the podium was filled with U.S. Ski Team members. Former Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club skier Jaelin Kauf picked up a second-place finish with an 83.7 on her final run. She held the lead until Vail native Kai Owens blazed down the course with impressive aerials, earning an 84.38 to take the victory. Tess Johnson, also from Vail, finished third with an 82.91.
“The course was super sweet. The moguls are nice,” said Owens. “I was pretty nervous up top, but just remembered to keep it tight, keep it clean, hit good takeoffs.”
Competition will continue Saturday, Jan.11, with another singles run, and Sunday, Jan. 12, with duals.
Catching up with Kauf
The U.S. moguls selection camp and competitions brought former SSWSC skier Jaelin Kauf back to Steamboat for the first time in years. The Olympian and Wyoming native attended high school in Steamboat while training and competing with the Winter Sports Club.
“I love the breakfast food here,” Kauf said of Steamboat. “That’s one of my favorite things, honestly. My favorite place is Freshies. I’ll have to go test it out and see if it’s as good as I remember.”
Ahead of the races at Steamboat Resort, Kauf had just three starts so far this season. In China, she finished second in dual moguls and in Finland, she was fourth in singles, just shy of the podium.
The season really picks up after the action at Steamboat.
“It’s been a little up and down. I don’t feel like I’ve gotten into the swing of things quite yet with my own skiing,” she said. “I’m happy to get a couple good results and a podium under my belt to start the year. It’s all just building from here on out.”
Kauf, two years removed from her seventh-place finish in freestyle moguls at the 2018 Winter Olympics, already has her sights on the 2022 Winter Olympics in China.
Kauf said she thinks of the games somewhat often.
“More just (as a means of) measuring myself from that point to now,” she said. “Thinking about where I was then, where I thought my skiing and everything was at, and how far I think I’ve grown and developed since then.
Between now and then, she hopes to incorporate new jumps into her runs while competing on the World Cup Circuit. Kauf is currently second in the cup standings.
While she was a young athlete at the club, Steamboat Resort hosted U.S. selections, so Kauf was able to compete alongside older, more experienced mogul skiers. She said it was great to come back on the other side of things.
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