Bump skiing is in the blood for Team USA’s Jaelin Kauf, who will compete in moguls at her second Winter Olympics this month in Beijing.
As the daughter of two parents on the pro mogul circuit – her father, Scott, was a five-time Pro Mogul Tour champion and mom Patti won the title twice – it seemed only natural that Kauf was on skis as kid, competing alongside older brother Skyler in everything from alpine to freeride to ski cross when both were kids.
“[My parents] taught me a love and a passion for the sport, and I fell in love with mogul skiing just like they did,” Kauf told NBC Sports.
The 25-year-old Kauf hails from the small, northwest Wyoming town of Alta, where she grew up skiing in the shadows of the Grand Tetons at the quaint-but-rugged Grand Targhee Resort.
“The outdoors there is pretty spectacular,” she says. “We’re at the base of the Tetons and growing up is just all about being on the mountain, skiing, hiking, adventuring and playing in nature.”
Add to the list: mountain biking. Kauf fell in love with the summertime sport, too, and said she finds several cross-over skills that translate from the dirt-packed single tracks to the snowy bump lines that she competes on each winter.
“[Mountain biking] is pretty mellow uphill, then it’s like jarring myself down the mountain,” she explains. “I think it’s really similar to mogul skiing in like you don’t have that much time to think about it. You have to spot out your line, through the rocks or little drops and whatever it is, and you have to look ahead and find that line and just commit to it.”
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Kauf committed herself to the pursuit of her Olympic dream just prior to high school, when she moved to Colorado to train with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. She made the U.S. Ski Team in 2016 and just two years later, Kauf made her Olympic debut in PyeongChang, where she finished seventh after just missing out on the final.
Kauf went on to finish second in the 2018 World Cup standings and placed in the top five in each of the next three seasons as well. She arrives in Beijing at No. 19 in the standings, mired in a seven-event stretch this season that includes just two top-10 finishes. Her best finish so far was a fourth in dual moguls – which is not an Olympic event – in Alpe d’Huez, France, in mid-December. She last stood atop the podium at a 2020 World Cup in Shymbulak, Kazakhstan.
But winning isn’t all that fuels Kauf.
“I have little stickers that say, ‘Deliver the Love,'” says Kauf, referring to the small decals she has on her helmet, phone and other easy-to-spot places. “It’s like my little motto just to remember why I’m skiing: It’s because I love it and I’m passionate about it, and that’s how I want to go about life.”
Kauf will be joined by Team USA teammates Hannah Soar, the 22-year-old from Somers, Conn., and 21-year-old Olivia Giaccio from Redding, Conn., both of whom will make their Olympic debut. The No. 4-ranked Giaccio won her first career World Cup in December at the season-opening event at Ruka, Finland, and in January she became the first woman to land a cork 1080 in a moguls competition in Tremblant, Canada.
Rounding out the American women’s squad is 17-year-old Kai Owens, whose debut in Beijing will also mark a return to her birth country. Owens, who calls Vail, Colo., home, was adopted from China when she was 16 months old.
They’ll faced stiff competition in another Olympic newcomer – 17-year-old Kawamura Anri from Japan, who recently took over the top spot in the standings with her win at Deer Valley (Utah) in the final World Cup before the Games. France’s Perrine Laffont, the 2018 gold medalist, will be back to defend her medal and is currently second in the standings.
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2022 Winter Olympics: Schedule for Women’s Moguls
|Event||Date/Time (U.S. Eastern Time)||Date/Time (Beijing, China)|
|Women’s Moguls (Qualifying #1)||2/3/22 5:00 AM||2/3/22 6:00 PM|
|Women’s Moguls (Qualifying #2)||2/6/22 5:00 AM||2/6/22 6:00 PM|
|Women’s Moguls (Final)||2/6/22 6:30 AM||2/6/22 7:30 PM|
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The NBC Olympics Research team contributed to this report.