American moguls racers struggle in World Champs at Deer Valley
DEER VALLEY RESORT, Utah —The U.S. didn’t pick up any medals in the moguls competition at Deer Valley on Friday.
Champions Run, considered something like hallowed ground on the international circuit, proved too much for the Americans.
Its appeal is also many racers’ downfall.
“I like it because of the challenge,” said Jaelin Kauf, the top U.S. finisher, and the only American athlete to reach the superfinals. “It’s really steep, it’s really long and you have to be a good skier to ski it. You have to be on top of it to make it down and have a good run.”
Though six Americans reached the first final, only Kauf, who lives and trains in Park City, earned a place in the final round of six.
Last season, Kauf stood on the podium during both days of the Visa Freestyle International World Cup at Deer Valley, sharing first place with France’s Perrine Laffont. She was poised for a similar result Friday after laying down a solid run in the small finals for a score of 76.71, standing third going into the superfinals.
But an error at the top of her superfinals run put her out of medal contention.
“I think I just hit one of the moguls a little too much and just got stuck on my turn,” she said. “And it kind of caused my skis to shoot out.”
She recovered before going into the first air, and performed her 360 cleanly, but she knew she had to make up for her mistake.
“I’m out here to win,” she said. “I knew that if I didn’t do something special in the middle (section), that wasn’t going to happen. So it was all or nothing there.”
She skied through the finish line, but couldn’t keep the run tight enough to earn a medal-worthy score, and finished with a 68.47.
Yulia Galysheva of Kazakhstan took gold with a score of 79.14, followed by Jakara Anthony of Australia (78.99), and Laffont (78.70), who took bronze.
In the men’s competition, Parkite Brad Wilson finished second from last, feeling the same effects from Champions Run as Kauf.
The 26-year-old Parkite from Butte, Montana, flew down his home course and came into the last jump so quickly that he caught what he said was twice the air he was hoping for. He had almost made it down the hill when an edge of his right ski caught on a mogul and he tumbled across the line in a cloud of powder.
He emerged to the sound of the crowd’s cheers, swinging his pole over his head, a smile on his face.
“Oh my god, that was fun,” he said after his run. “I just could not slow down coming into the bottom air. That was my goal though. I wanted to lay a run down, and fast. And it was fast.”
Wilson said he had the run under control until he tried to slow down, and simultaneously missed a pole plant. He was off balance, making it impossible to speed check at the next mogul without crashing, so his only option was to take the direct line to send town.
“Too big,” Wilson said, summarizing his jump. “You kind of gamble with that. You don’t really know where you’re going to land.”
He crossed the finish line fully horizontal on his side, still spinning and rolling, with a total time of 23.14 seconds – a full second and a half faster than the next fastest time up to that point.
“I’m glad I’m OK,” he said. “I think I’m OK, the adrenaline has to calm down a bit first.”
In the end, he said he would have preferred a good score, but just competing on the run is always a pleasure.
“I love it,” he said. “It’s so much fun – the course here, with the lights and the crowd, honestly it’s unbelievable.”
As for the winners, the podium was a repeat of the result in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
Mikael Kingsbury was undeniable once again. The Canadian Olympic gold medalist, who is the winningest male moguls skier in history, finished with a score of 84.89, edging out Pyeongchang silver medalist Matt Graham of Australia (81.94) and bronze medalist Daichi Hara of Japan (81.66).
Dylan Walcyk was the top-placing U.S. competitor, finishing eighth with a score of 76.29.
In a titanic battle of 35-year-old local superstars, John Gaston outdueled Simi Hamilton on Saturday to win the fourth iteration of the Snowmass 50 mountain bike race.
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