Career Bests for Soar, Page, Andringa at the 2020 Intermountain Healthcare Freestyle International
The wind died down and the snow started falling - the roar of the crowd reached all the way up the legendary Champion course - it was night one of the 2020 Intermountain Healthcare Freestyle International at Deer Valley Resort. The world’s best mogul skiers showed Park City what they’re made of in a thrilling night of competition.
The U.S. fielded 17 athletes, with three women and three men making finals under the lights: Brad Wilson, Nick Page, Jesse Andringa, Hannah Soar, Jaelin Kauf and Tess Johnson. Hannah Soar, Nick Page and Jesse Andringa had career-best finishes in singles fourth and 10th, 11th, respectively. Wasatch Freestyle skier Kasey Hogg, in her World Cup debut in front of friends and family, skied into an impressive 19th place finish.
Tess kicked it off for the women in finals and threw her new heli-mute, but missed the grab which cost her a shot at the super final. She ended the night in ninth place and was in a good head space following her run. “I’m feeling so good,” she said with a huge smile on her face. “I love this course. There’s nothing more magical or special than skiing under the lights at Deer Valley with all of our friends and family cheering us on. There's nothing like it.”
The fastest woman in the world Jaelin Kauf laid it down and was one second faster than any other competitor in the round of 16, and then went off to smoke everyone again in super finals. She had an aggressive run in her classic heli to back X, but it wasn’t enough for the podium on Thursday and she came away in fifth place. “It was definitely not the result I was going for,” she reflected. “I was shooting for the podium, for that number one spot. I’m really happy with my skiing, just competing on this course under the lights in front of this crowd is spectacular every single time. I’m really happy with how I performed with my skiing, I felt really good about it.” As far as how she keeps that momentum to ski the fastest she can. “Just not thinking about it I guess. The course is sweet [here] so it makes it easy to go fast.”
Hannah has been taking a more methodical approach to her skiing this season, experimenting with different trick combinations in competition. She opted for a back tuck to back grab for Thursday night. “Today was almost like taking a step back for me doing a back tuck to a back grab, which I have never competed before. Usually, I have a full or a cork somewhere in that run. So it was interesting in that way taking a step back from DD and focusing on skiing as fast as I can in order to make that final, that super final, get a win.” This is Hannah’s third super final of the season, and she’s thrown three different run packages each time. “Hannah is continuing to climb the ladder,” said Head Moguls Coach Matt Gnoza. “This is her personal best in fourth place. She already has the DD in her back pocket, it’s just a matter of bringing them back out. So that’s the next step for her, sewing that DD into finals.”
On the men’s side, in his first World Cup final in his sixth World Cup start, on home snow in front of his hometown, Nick Page stomped it out skiing a beautiful D spin to a cork 7 and ended the night in 10th. “You know it was crazy,” Nick said of his first finals experience. “Throughout the season I’ve been pretty stressed before all of these runs. And then this event I was just in this really nice place. I was in front of my whole family and in front of my whole home town for that matter. It was just so fun! It was the most fun night.”
Brad Wilson lit it up with a double full to a back X. He favors the Champion course and skied fearless and aggressive to end the night in 12th. “Brad just keeps chipping away at the finals,” said Matt. “He puts himself in there each week and sooner or later he'll clean up and it'll be right there for him.”
Jesse Andringa was the top qualifying U.S. man with an outstanding run he hoped to duplicate in finals. He skied the unofficial fastest run ever on Champion to deafening cheers from the thousands of fans, but it wasn’t enough to send him to super finals and he landed in 11th place, the best singles finish of his career so far. “I messed up my top air so then I knew I had to put on a smoke show,” said a breathless Jesse after his run. “So I just sent it and felt like I was on it the entire way, and I kept going faster and faster. I didn’t have a great bottom air, but you know, it was fun! Felt like I was flying.”
France’s Perrine Laffont claimed her sixth-straight World Cup victory on the Champion course. She remains undefeated this season. Australia’s Anthony Jakara took second and Canada’s Justine Dufour-LaPointe rounded out the podium in third. Japan’s Ikuma Hiroshima stole the show with his second win of the season, Canada’s Mikael Kingsbury came in second and Sweden’s Felix Elofsson earned his first World Cup podium with a third place.
Tom Rowley finished 21st, Alex Lewis in 26th, Kalman Heims in 30th, Bruce Perry Jr. in 35th, Landon Wendler in 36th, Emerson Smith - in his first World Cup since 2018 - in 37th and Dylan Walczyk in 42nd. Madison Hogg finished 24th, Kai Owens - in her first World Cup under the lights - in 25th, and Maggie Ryan in 34th.
Six regional athletes joined the U.S. Team on the world’s greatest mogul stage. “My goal was to make it down Champion since it’s the hardest course in the world,” said Kasey. “Ending up 19th was definitely more than I expected and I’m really excited about it.” Kalman Heims, in his fifth World Cup start, had an incredible qualifying run and was having a blast on the Champion course. “The course has been awesome all week,” he said. “The little fresh snow last night really made things nice for us athletes. The middle section was awesome. I just remembered the cues Matt told me and was able to keep it in control and lay down my best run so far on Champion.
The U.S. Moguls Team has another chance at moguls glory with dual mogul competition on Saturday night under the lights on Champion. “Saturday I’m looking to just enjoy it, have fun, rip it,” said Hannah. “Just go fast, go big, put on a show for the crowd!” There’s nothing like the energy of thousands of fans cheering on the greatest skiers going head to head in what may be the greatest show on snow. “I'm looking forward to skiing again,” said Brad. “Hopefully it keeps snowing and we can keep skiing some pow bumps, ski under the lights with everybody here.”
Just shy of podiums on Thursday, the U.S. Team is pumped to give their hometown crowd an awesome night of competition. “I love duals, it’s so exciting here,” said Jaelin. “This course is incredible every single time, I'm looking forward to going head to head with some of these girls, it should be super fun!”
“[The team is] skiing fast, they really know how to ski this course well,” said Matt of what we can expect on Saturday. “Most of the athletes were very competitive in their speed, so that bodes well for duals. We’re exiting the jumps well, I think duals is going be a fun night.”
Competition continues Friday night with the first aerials World Cup of 2020. This is the U.S. Team’s first World Cup competition and getting to compete in front of friends and family is the perfect way to kick off their season.
HOW TO WATCH
Friday, Feb. 7
9:30 p.m. - Intermountain Healthcare Freestyle International men and women’s aerials, Deer Valley, Utah - NBCSN, NBCSports.com, NBC Sports Gold
Saturday, Feb. 8
3:00 p.m. - Intermountain Healthcare Freestyle International men and women’s moguls and aerials, Deer Valley, Utah - NBC**
9:30 p.m. - Intermountain Healthcare Freestyle International men and women’s dual moguls, Deer Valley, Utah - Olympic Channel, OlympicChannel.com, NBC Sports Gold
Sunday, Feb. 9
3:00 p.m. - Intermountain Healthcare Freestyle International men and women’s dual moguls, Deer Valley, Utah - NBC**