Steamboat women set for World Ski Championships
Strong results have Kauf, Giaccio on the big stage
2017 U.S. World Championships moguls team
Brad Wilson, Butte, Montana; Wasatch Freestyle
Troy Murphy, Bethel, Maine; Gould Academy/Sunday River
Thomas Rowley, Long Beach, New York; Hunter Mountain Freestyle Team
Dylan Walczyk, Rochester, New York; Ski & Snowboard Club Vail
Morgan Schild, Rochester, New York; Ski & Snowboard Club Vail
Jaelin Kauf, Alta, Wyoming; Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club
Keaton McCargo, Telluride; Telluride Ski and Snowboard Club
Olivia Giaccio, Redding, Connecticut; Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club
Steamboat Springs — Occasionally after a poor result on the World Cup — and there haven’t been many — Jaelin Kauf’s mother, Patti Kauf, a world-class moguls skier herself, offers some consolation.
“Remember last year, or two years ago, when your goal was the 2022 Olympics,” she’ll say. “You didn’t think you’d be skiing on the World Cup or with the U.S. SKi Team at this point, so you’re already ahead of your plans.”
Jaelin Kauf considered that Monday after a day of training in Spain, preparing for the Freestyle World Ski Championships.
Maybe 2022 was her goal, but her results just won’t wait, and now, she’s one of two young Steamboat Springs-trained women set to represent the United States at the World Championships in Sierra Nevada, Spain.
Kauf and Olivia Giaccio, who both trained with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, will ski Wednesday in the individual moguls competition, then again Thursday in dual moguls — each capping spectacular seasons on one of the sport’s biggest stages.
“It’s a huge honor,” Giaccio said. “It was a goal of mine from the beginning of the year, definitely a high goal, but I’m glad I reached it.”
Giaccio is 16 years old. Kauf is 20. Both are in their first season as full members of the U.S. Ski Team.
“It means a lot,” Kauf said. “I didn’t really know what it would mean going through the season. I really tried not to focus on it, but now being here, it’s really cool.”
The moguls team, announced Monday, included four men and four women.
Bradley Wilson, Troy Murphy, Thomas Rowley and Dylan Walczyk will compete for the men in moguls. Morgan Schild and Keaton McCargo will join Giaccio and Kauf for the women.
The men, all 23 or 24 years old, have plenty of experience, accounting for eight World Championships starts between them, though Wilson is the only one to land on a World Cup podium this season, placing third twice.
The women are younger, averaging 19 years of age, and McCargo is the only one with any World Championship experience. They’ve had strong success this season, however, accumulating 14 World Cup top-10 finishes, six podiums and two wins.
“We’ve really been pushing each other a lot,” Kauf said. “We’re definitely a really good team so to end up in the top four is really cool.”
Both Kauf and Giaccio were sharp in the second half of their season, allowing them to make the squad. Kauf missed most of the fall and early-winter training opportunities with an injury and struggled out of the gate. She found her form midway through, however, earning her first career podium by placing third in a dual moguls events at Deer Valley Resort in Utah.
She racked up two fifth-place finishes in individual moguls events, as well, but the real kicker came late last month when she won a dual moguls event in Japan.
“Going into any event you set your sights on winning, but I guess you don’t understand what it means, what it would really feel like,” she said. “It’s definitely pretty surreal. When I looked up at the scoreboard and saw I’d won, it took a little while to sink in.”
Giaccio also didn’t have the strongest start to the season. She missed out on the opportunity to start several mid-season World Cup events but took that time to return to Steamboat and train, working out an inconsistency in her turns.
When she got back, she was consistently in finals, earning the best results of her career. She was fourth in that Deer Valley dual moguls event, then third in dual moguls in Japan and rode those results to the Rookie of the Year honors on the World Cup circuit.
Now she’s skiing near the top of the team and eager to attack the World Championships course.
“I would love to do well results wise, but my main goal is to ski the best run I can with a fast time, clean skiing and big airs,” she said. “It’s about focusing on the process.”
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