Mogul skier Jaelin Kauf looks to ‘deliver the love’ in Beijing and beyond

Jaelin Kauf competes at the Deer Valley World Cup.
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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.”

MORE WINTER OLYMPIC COVERAGE: Aerial skier Ashley Caldwell embraces fear, prepares to conquer it in Beijing

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.

WOMEN’S MOGULS UPDATE: Four years after Olympic misses, Jakara Anthony and Jaelin Kauf shine in Beijing

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

MORE FROM ON HER TURF: How to watch every women’s event at the 2022 Winter Olympics

The NBC Olympics Research team contributed to this report. 

Justine Wong-Orantes’ atypical path to becoming one of the best liberos in the world

Justine Wong-Orantes hits the ball in the women's semi-final volleyball match between USA and Serbia during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
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It’s been 20 years since the same nation held both the Olympic and world volleyball titles at the same time, but libero Justine Wong-Orantes is looking to help lead Team USA accomplish that very feat at the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championships in the Netherlands and Poland. Competition began on Friday and the U.S. is currently 2-0 after group play wins against Kazakhstan and Canada.

“We’re trying to win, for sure,” Wong-Orantes told On Her Turf. “I think, especially with the new turn of the program and the new year of the quad, we just have a really nice blend of veterans and also newcomers on the team.”

The 14-woman roster for Team USA, which is ranked No. 1 in the world and won its first Olympic title last summer, features six players from that gold-medal-winning team. And while Wong-Orantes is among the 2021 U.S. Olympic team veterans, she’s still a relative newcomer to international play.

The Southern California native enjoyed a notable junior career – she was 12 when she became the youngest female to ever earn an AAA rating in beach volleyball – and was a standout collegian at Nebraska, where she was a member of the 2015 NCAA championship team. But Wong-Orantes followed a different path upon graduation, initially choosing not to go overseas to play professionally.

While she was first selected for the U.S. national team in 2016 and played a handful of international tournaments in the following years, it wasn’t until she started playing professionally in Germany in 2019 that she saw the potential to elevate her position on the roster. In particular, the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics gave her an additional year of overseas experience, which she calls “a blessing in disguise.”

“I just felt like I was still in that developmental stage,” she said. “And a whole year postponement allowed me to go overseas and really get all the touches, all the repetitions, and just kind of expose myself to international volleyball another year. So I was, in hindsight, pretty thankful for that COVID season because I got an extra year under my belt, and I think that just gave me a ton of confidence.”

Ahead of the Olympics, Wong-Orantes earned “best libero” honors at the 2021 FIVB Volleyball National League in Rimini, Italy, which helped secure her spot on the Olympic roster. In Tokyo, she followed up with another standout performance and was named best libero of the Olympic tournament.

As to how the Wong-Orantes transformed into one of the world’s top liberos, she points to her background as a beach volleyball player. She began competing at age 8, and her first partner was Sara Hughes, a star on the AVP Pro Tour who also won two NCAA titles with USC.

“I think having that background and just the court awareness that beach volleyball forces you to have allowed me to really have a good read on the game,” said Wong-Orantes. “I think that’s what makes a great libero is just reading and always being reactive towards the ball.”

Wong-Orantes also credits the assistance of mental coach Sue Enquist, a former UCLA softball coach and U.S. national team coach, who now helps teams work on their culture and relationships. Enquist began working with the U.S. volleyball team during the pandemic and has continued in her role ever since.

“We just worked on a lot of stuff within ourselves, within our program, how to communicate with each other off the court, and I think that honestly propelled us into such a high, high level with how we worked with each other, and then that transferred onto the court,” explained Wong-Orantes, who noted the team has Enquist on speed dial while at the World Championship. “I really commend Sue. I just really give a lot of praise to her because I think our culture was never bad, but I think [she] just transformed into a different level.”

2022-09-26 - FIVB Volleyball Womens World Championship 2022 - Day 4
ARNHEM, NETHERLANDS – Justine Wong-Orantes (far right) poses for a photo with her U.S. teammates after defeating Canada at the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship on September 26, 2022. (Photo by Rene Nijhuis/Orange Pictures/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

Wong-Orantes said she and her U.S. teammates are on their toes for the world championships, which features twice as many teams (24) as the Olympics and a “more grueling” format.

“It’s going to be a long tournament, and I think we’re really going to need all 14 of us that are here. I’m pretty certain that, at any given moment, someone’s going to be called on and someone’s going to need to step up in big moments.”

2022 Ascendant LPGA: How to watch, who’s playing in Texas’s annual signature event

Atthaya Thitikul of Thailand hits her second shot on the 16th hole during the final round of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.
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The LPGA make its annual stop in The Colony, Texas, this week for the 10th edition of the Ascendant LPGA benefiting Volunteers of America, where Thailand’s 19-year-old rookie Atthaya Thitikul comes in hot off her second career win and second playoff victory this season at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.

Leading the 132-player field at Old American Golf Club, located at Golf Clubs at The Tribute, are Texas residents and past champions Cheyenne Knight and Angela Stanford. They’ll compete for the $1.7 million prize purse alongside major champions Nelly KordaLydia Ko and Brooke Henderson. Last year’s Ascendant LPGA champion, world No. 1 Jin Young Ko, will not be defending her title after announcing earlier this month she would be missing several weeks due to a nagging wrist injury.

This past weekend in Arkansas, Thitikul took the lead with a 10-under 61 in the second round and shot 68 in the final round to finish regulation tied with Danielle Kang at 17-under 196. Thitikul, who won the JTBC Classic in March in a two-hole playoff vs. Nanna Koerstz Madsen, drained an 8-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole to secure the win over Kang.

How to watch the 2022 Ascendant LPGA 

Coverage of the 2022 Ascendant LPGA from Old American Golf Club in The Colony, Texas, can be found on Golf Channel, with streaming options available any time on any mobile device and online through and the NBC Sports app.

  • Thursday, Sept. 29: 12:30-3:30 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Friday, Sept. 30: 12:30-3:30 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Saturday, Oct. 1: 1-4 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Sunday, Oct. 2: 1-4 p.m. ET, Golf Channel

Who’s playing in the 2022 Ascendant LPGA

Six of the top 10 players in the Rolex World Rankings are among the field in Texas, including:

  • No. 2 Nelly Korda
  • No. 4 Lydia Ko
  • No. 5 Atthaya Thitikul
  • No. 6 Brooke Henderson
  • No. 7 Lexi Thompson
  • No. 10 Nasa Hataoka

A number of local Texans also are in the tournament, headlined by past champions, Angela Stanford (2020) and Cheyenne Knight (2019), and two junior champions of the Volunteers of America Classic Girls Championship, who are playing on a sponsor exemption: Yunxuan (Michelle) Zhang (2022), a freshman at SMU, and Avery Zweig (2021), a high school sophomore from McKinney, Texas.

Past five champions of The Ascendant LPGA

2021 Jin Young Ko (South Korea) 16-under 268 1 stroke Matilda Castren
2020 Angela Stanford (USA) 7-under 277 2 strokes So Yeon Ryu, Inbee Park, Yealimi Noh
2019 Cheyenne Knight (USA) 18-under 266 2 strokes Brittany Altomare, Jaye Marie Green
2018 Sung Hyun Park (South Korea) 11-under 131 1 stroke Lindy Duncan
2017 Haru Nomura (Japan) 3-under 281 Playoff Christie Kerr

Last time at The Ascendant LPGA

South Korea’s Jin Young Ko carded a final-round 69 to maintain her 54-hole lead at Old American Golf Club and held on for a one stroke win at the 2021 Volunteers of America Classic, her eighth career LPGA tour title. Ko finished regulation at 16-under 268, edging Finland’s Matilda Castren by one stroke.

It kicked off a five-win season for Ko, who had just lost her No. 1 ranking to Nelly Korda the week prior after holding the top spot for 100 straight weeks. She regained the No. 1 ranking back in October 2021, after earning her fourth win in seven starts at the BMW Ladies Championship.

More about Old American Golf Club

Opened in 2010, the Old American Golf Club is one of two clubs at The Tribute, a lakefront resort community on Lewisville Lake in The Colony, Texas. Designed by Tripp Davis and 12-time PGA Tour winner Justin Leonard, Old American plays as a Par 71 and stretches to 6,475 yards on the tournament scorecard.