Kauf seeks redemption after Pyeongchang; 2 other Steamboat moguls skiers have shot at Olympics
Jaelin Kauf has been on this path before. In 2018, she earned a spot on the Olympic Freestyle Moguls team bound for Pyeongchang and was a favorite for the podium after earning the No. 1 spot on the World Cup circuit ahead of the Games. She fell short of expectations, mostly her own, when she just missed the threshold for the final round, taking seventh.
“I’ve had a lot of time, four years I guess now, to reflect on that experience,” Kauf said. “For me, I’ve thought a lot about that Olympic experience, like going through the whole qualification process. I’ve definitely used that to look forward to this season. It’s definitely an advantage, knowing I’ve gone through this whole process before.”
She’s had three incredible seasons since and is slated not only to make the team but lead one of the most talented groups of women in the world towards medal contention.
Kauf, who competed at the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club through high school, is part of the U.S. Moguls National team known as the #powHerhouse, including Vermonter Hannah Soar, Kai Owens and Tess Johnson, of Vail, and Olivia Giaccio, who spent time training in Steamboat, as well.
Giaccio has been rising through the ranks over the past few years. She’ll have to beat out some strong skiers to make the team, but it could very well happen.
It’s a pretty safe bet to say Kauf will be on the Olympic team, taking one of the maximum four slots for American moguls women; however, she knows she’s got tough competition.
“I know what this whole Olympic process entails, and I know I have the capability mentally and physically to be able to compete and put down my stuff to get to that level and to qualify for the Olympics,” she said. “We have a really stacked women’s team right now, so I know it’s not going to be easy, but I know I can do it and am kind of expecting at this point to be on the Olympic team.”
In order to make the team, athletes must compete at the World Cup level, have at least 80 FIS (International Ski Federation) points and finish in the top 30 at least once. Points are earned by top-30 finishes.
According to the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Olympic team criteria, “up to the top two highest ranked athletes, per gender, from the FIS Mogul Points List as of Dec. 22, 2021, will be nominated to the 2022 U.S. Olympic Team.” The standings change after every World Cup event and can be found at FIS-Ski.com.
Skiers start a moguls race by entering a moguls section of the steep course, showing off their speed and agility. Then, they perform an aerial trick off a jump before finding their rhythm in the next section of moguls. Athletes fly off another jump and perform, generally, a “bigger” trick, then complete the final stretch of moguls to the finish line.
Athletes are judged on technical ability in the turns, tricks performed in the air and speed.
The third slot will be filled by anyone who has a top three finish in one of the seven designated qualifying events. From there, there are a few other standards and tie-breaking criteria to fill the fourth slot.
The first qualifying event will be Dec. 4 in Ruka, Finland, where the national team is training right now. The last event will be in Deer Valley, Utah, on Jan. 14, and the team must be announced by Jan. 21.
Dec. 4: Ruka, Finland
Dec. 11: Idre Fjall, Sweden
Dec. 16: Alp d’Huez, France
Jan. 7: Tremblant No. 1, Canada
Jan. 8: Tremblant No. 2, Canada
Jan. 13: Deer Valley No. 1, U.S.
Jan. 14: Deer Valley No. 2, U.S.
For those not yet at the World Cup level, the road to Beijing begins Nov. 20. Steamboat skier Landon Wendler is in Sweden with some members of the U.S. Moguls national and development teams. In 10 days, he’ll compete in an FIS Open event. He said the top U.S. finisher will earn a World Cup start, which is the first step in qualifying for Beijing 2022.
“It’s going to be pretty tough. The competition is pretty hard right now. We’ve got a lot of guys on the team that are all really good,” Wendler said. “It’s definitely going to be a tough fight to make that team.”
Wendler, who is just in his second year on the national team, has a longer road to the Olympics — but isn’t out of the running.
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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