Steamboat Springs’ Dierdorff and Kauf find success at World Championships after Olympic year
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Winter Olympics or Winter X Games are usually the times when U.S. winter sports athletes garner the most attention.
Mick Dierdorff: first, snowboard cross; first, team snowboard cross
Jaelin Kauf: sixth, women’s moguls; second, dual moguls
Arielle Gold: fifth, women’s snowboard halfpipe
Cody Winters: 22nd, parallel slalom; 41st. parallel giant slalom
Robby Burns: 15th, parallel slalom; 38th, parallel giant slalom
Aaron “AJ” Muss: 36th, parallel giant slalom
Olivia Giaccio: 15th, women’s moguls; 20th, dual moguls
And for that, it’s reasonable to think that winter sports athletes might hang the fate of their careers on whether or not they podium once a year in Aspen or once every four years around the world, maybe overlooking the importance of a World Championship medal.
But the World Championships are a biennial event that feature world class athletes on an international stage.
“I feel like I had always thought about the Olympics in my career and I don’t know if I ever realized how cool a World Championships gold would be until I made the team,” Steamboat Springs Olympic snowboarder Mick Dierdorff said. “And it all started to become a reality, and all of a sudden, I’m a world champion. I had to check myself, ‘Did that really just happen?'”
Dierdorff brought home a World Championship gold in snowboard cross, a long-awaited victory after taking fifth in last year’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
But Dierdorff doesn’t consider the fifth-place finish in the Olympics a setback. He fell on the wrong side of luck when a competitor crashed into him during the semifinals. He’d make the finals after the rest had crashed, but the back injury sustained from the impact of his fall impeded him from being 100 percent during the finals.
“I feel like I had the opportunity to podium there, but my sport is very unpredictable and I was in a good position to make it into the finals, got crashed into by another rider, and I thought my back was broken for sure,” Dierdorff said. “I definitely never felt any doubt in what I had done. I had really given it my all, and I think looking back on it, I know if I had just been a little more lucky and didn’t have that happen, I would’ve had the chance to get a medal.”
In addition to claiming the individual gold in snowboard cross, Dierdorff seized the opportunity to compete in the team event and won a second gold.
The USA team was made up of Dierdorff and five-time World Champion Lindsey Jacobellis. Dierdorff had won the spot since he was the top American male finisher. Jacobellis had just missed the podium in her individual competition, breaking her winning streak, but as the top female snowboard cross athlete for the U.S., her spot was sealed.
“In the week leading up to the race, she made a joke about it on her social media that it was like ‘The Bachelor,’ and she made a post about who was going to get the final rose to race with her in the team race,” Dierdorff said. “We were asked about that and I just said I was so excited to get the final rose.”
The men’s race kicked off the team competition, where once Dierdorff crossed the finish, a transponder he wore on his leg signaled the opening of Jacobellis’ gate to start her race. Jacobellis’ finish sealed the first-place finish.
Dierdorff had blazed through the competition through the qualifying rounds, but during the finals, he’d got bumped and lost speed on the course. He passed through the finish line in last place, feeling like he had failed Jacobellis and ruined her chances of medaling.
“I felt some devastation and I started watching the screen, and she absolutely killed it and passed her way into first right away,” Dierdorff said. “Even though she started in last in that heat, it seemed like a victory — she dominated the girls that much. It almost made it that much more exciting for her to have it all on her shoulders.”
Dierdorff has two World Cup races left this season in Spain and Switzerland. After that, he will return to carpentry work and will look toward earning his bachelor’s degree. He also hopes to attend the USASA Nationals to cheer on the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club kids with dreams like his.
“After the Olympic year, I ended the season with higher expectations, and with that, a little anxiousness and just hoping that I really can be at that same level as I was last year,” Dierdorff said. “It was pretty crazy it all came together at the perfect time … I went into World Championships without any expectations, just telling myself to focus on every heat, that’s all I need to do — take it one heat at a time and ride my best race.”
Kauf shines in dual moguls finish
Steamboat Springs’ Jaelin Kauf was the only American to reach the finals of the women’s singles moguls competition at the World Championships on Saturday, Feb. 9.
After the small finals, Kauf was poised for a podium finish, but when her run didn’t go as planned, she fell to sixth place.
“I think I just hit one of the moguls a little too much and just got stuck on my turn,” Kauf told the Park Record. “And it kind of caused my skis to shoot out.”
But Kauf came back the next day to claim a silver medal in the women’s dual moguls event after beating out American teammate Tess Johnson.
Kauf faced France’s Perrine Laffont in the final, beating her to the finish, but Laffont outscored Kauf in style on her airs and turns.
But in the end, Kauf made a promise for the next competition.
“Next time,” she said in the same interview with the Park Record, “will be gold.”
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