In four of her last five stops at Deer Valley, Utah, Jaelin Kauf has reached the podium. If she’s to make it five out of six she’ll be a two-time medalist in the World Ski Championships.
Kauf will have home-course advantage Friday and Saturday as she and her United States teammates compete on the same hill where they train. It’s the moguls skier’s biggest event since she placed seventh at the Winter Olympics a year ago. Only this weekend she’ll have two opportunities for a medal.
Singles takes place at 7 p.m. Friday, with dual moguls to follow at the same time Saturday.
Both competitions will air live on NBCSports.com/live.
Kauf took the bronze in dual moguls at the previous World Championships in 2017 in Spain, a day after placing 21st in singles. She entered the 2017 event with three World Cup podiums and one World Cup win under her belt. This time around she boasts 11 podiums and six World Cup wins.
The home-course advantage and two more years of experience for the 22-year-old from Alta make her a heavy medal favorite this weekend. If she does top the podium she will have a support crew there to celebrate with her — just as she did in January 2018 when she skied to second and first in two days of World Cup competition at Deer Valley.
“I’m excited to ski on the course,” Kauf said. “It’s always my favorite stop every year, and I think with the extra excitement of World Championships, that just adds to it. There’s a bunch of my family and friends coming out to watch, and I love that.”
Last year Kauf’s fans showed up at Deer Valley in full force with “Team Jaelin” beanies and letter “J” signs that were held high in the finishing area. Kauf now lives in Park City, Utah, and the majority of Team Jaelin resides 4 1/2 hours north in Teton Valley, Idaho.
Kauf has competed in six World Cup events this season, winning two, making the podium in three and finishing in the top five in each. With two events on her home course, she has better odds of medaling than she does walking away empty-handed.
Last February Kauf left the Olympics in South Korea without a medal despite posting a first-round score that would have been good enough for gold had she qualified for the medal round. Kauf said she doesn’t feel pressure as she prepares for the premier event of this season. Having two chances at a podium instead of one doesn’t hurt either.
“At the Olympics it was that one day, that one run,” she said. “You had to put it down. It’s the same way for singles here, but there’s also that reassurance that if it doesn’t go as planned on singles day you have duals day the next day, and anything can happen in duals.”
The Olympics doesn’t feature dual moguls, arguably a more aesthetically pleasing event. The extra competition this weekend is good not only for the competitors but also for the fans, Kauf said.
“There’s a different level of excitement in dual moguls,” she said. “Being a spectator, it’s easier to compare the two skiers when they’re skiing side by side.”
This weekend’s results won’t count in the World Cup standings. Through six World Cup events Kauf sits in third place in the overall standings with 400 points, 100 behind leader Perrine Laffont, of France. Kauf will have two more stops on the tour after the World Championships.
Following last year’s Olympics she said that finishing first in the final standings was her goal. She placed an impressive second instead, but this year her focus lies not on the end of the season but on her very next run.
“I haven’t really looked too much at the points and what it would actually take to catch [Laffont] or beat her in the standings,” Kauf said. “I’m trying not to get too wrapped up in that. I think I got a little caught up in it last year, trying to ski for that, thinking about the results I had to get or she had to get to be number one. All I can really do is put down my runs and see where it takes me.”
If Kauf can ski at the same level in Deer Valley that she’s skied all season, she just might add world champion to her ever-evolving resume.