Owens Third In Alpe D’Huez Dual Moguls World Cup
Kai Owens claimed her second World Cup podium of the season with a third place in the Alpe d’Huez Dual Moguls World Cup Saturday in France. Owens led five teammates into the Top 10: including Jaelin Kauf and Cole McDonald in fourth, Tess Johnson in fifth, Brad Wilson in sixth, and Hannah Soar 10th.
Alpe d’Huez showed off with another beautiful bluebird day and an energetic crowd, bringing a high level of excitement to the course that athletes fed off all day as they pushed themselves in head-to-head competition. Finals started with sun on the course, but as the rounds went, the shade crept in and what was soft snow turned to packed ice.
“This was a very challenging course today, every run athletes had to ski every mogul, it was relentless,” said U.S. Freestyle Team Head Mogul Coach Matt Gnoza. “Athletes had to ski more technically and put their skis on edge a little more, which is hard to do in duals when it’s you versus someone else and you want to be down the course first.”
Owens, Kauf, Johnson, Soar and Olivia Giaccio all qualified for the round of 16 Thursday. Johnson had a “buy” and advanced to the round of eight as Japan’s Rino Yanagimoto did not start. Johnson then met Australia’s Jakara Anthony and fought hard, but had a couple breaks in the middle section and did not take the advantage. Giaccio met Russia’s Anastasia Smirnova but struggled through the middle section and ended the day in 12th. Madison Hogg finished 46th.
Owens worked her way through the field, taking the advantage over Soar in the Round of 16, and Canada’s Maia Schwinghammer in the round of eight. Owens met Anthony in the semifinals where Anthony took the advantage.
Kauf showed the field what she is made of, skiing strong and calling upon her speed to take the advantage over Japan’s Anri Kawamura in the round of 16 and Canada’s Justine Dufour-Lapointe in the round of eight. She met Smirnova in Semi Finals. Although Kauf had some trouble in the middle section, she had Smirnova in speed, but did not advance to the Big Final.
The Small Final featured another American friendly fire with Owens and Kauf in an all-out drag race. Kauf had Owens with speed, crossing the line first, but didn’t quite stick her bottom air landing, and Owens took the advantage for the podium spot.
"I feel like I finally got back to skiing like myself," said Kauf. "It’s been struggle this year to get in the right mindset but I just went out today and did my best to ski my run. The course was tough and it was easy to get stiff in there which cost me a few mistakes but I was stoked to lay down some good runs and get back in the groove of it. That’s what will carry me into the break and back into after Christmas grind again."
Anthony won her second-straight World Cup of the weekend and Smirnova took second place.
Three men qualified for the Round of 16. Nick Page skied an epic qualification run to qualify in fourth position. He had a tough run out of the gate in the Round of 16 against Kazakhstan’s Pavel Kolmakov, going a little big on the top air and landing in a tricky spot, and unable to take the advantage. Page finished the day in 13th. Dylan Walczyk finished 17th.
Wilson skied a dynamic run against France’s Sacha Theocharis in the round of 16 to take the advantage. He was knocked out by Canada’s Mikael Kingsbury in the round of eight.
D Team member Cole McDonald made another impressive statement in his only fifth career World Cup start. McDonald attacked the course all day, beating Japan’s Daichi Hara in the round of 16 and Kolmakov in the round of eight.
He came up against Kinsgbury in the semifinals, and came out of the gate a bit hot, going big on the top air and blew out. “Skiing against Mikael I knew I had to have my best stuff, I tried to beat him out of the gate and tried to get him to go too big, but I did,” explained McDonald.
McDonald then met Japan’s Ikuma Horishima in the Small Final and kept on him in a fight to the end. “I just wanted to lay down a run next to Ikuma, have a good side by side and put on a good show for everybody,” said McDonald. Horishima took the advantage for the third place podium.
Kingsbury won the event and Sweden’s Walter Wallberg took second.
“For me today wasn’t about winning [those] duals (in the Semi and Small),” said McDonald. “It was more about finally being able to duel with both of those guys (Kingsbury and Horishima). I have dreamed about dueling them. So even just making it down and being able to ski side by side was sweet no matter if I won or lost.”
“Cole is building confidence every day he’s out here,” said Gnoza. “He is able to call on his athleticism and the skills he developed in the Wasatch Freestyle program. It’s really paying off for him. The way he skied those middle sections at the speed he was today was impressive.”
This marks the mogul crew’s final World Cup competition of 2021. Athletes will get a brief holiday break before picking things back up again in the New Year.
“The team is eager to get some rest but they’re also eager to get going again,” said Gnoza. “All of them are hungry to build on the progress they made [this block] and continue to do the things they need to do to keep climbing the results sheet. This is a group of relentless workers, and it was great to see their hard work pay off.”