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Freestyle Converges on Kazakhstan

By Lara Carlton
February, 26 2020
Kaila Kuhn, Megan Smallhouse, Ashley Caldwell
Kaila Kuhn, Megan Smallhouse, Ashley Caldwell are all smiles during training at Oi Qaragai Ski Resort (Andrey Kulagin)

The FIS Freestyle World Cup tour comes together this week in Kazakhstan with both aerials and dual moguls competition on deck. Although aerials and moguls fall under the freestyle umbrella and have a shared history, their tours often don’t intersect abroad in recent memory. This season, however, these teams meet twice overseas, first in Kazakhstan, and next week in Krasnoyarsk, Russia. 

Aerials kicks off the weekend on Friday at Almaty’s Oi Qaragai Ski Resort. This is the first FIS Aerials World Cup held in Kazakhstan and so far the team is loving the new stop. Athletes were treated to traditional music during a welcome feast and their meals are served in the world’s largest yurt. 

"Someone made the comment that [the yurt is] like the scene in Harry Potter when they walk into the magic camping tent and it’s much larger from the inside than you’d expect it to be," said Alex Bowen.

Coming off of the success of two podiums in Minsk last week, Justin Schoenefeld’s win and Chris Lillis’ third place, the aerials team will look to continue to rack up results. With warm, bluebird days and plenty of snow, the team is ready to stomp.

"It’s the first time Kazakhstan has hosted an Aerials World Cup in Almaty and the site is turning out to be spectacular," said Alex. "The coaches and volunteers have been working hard to maintain the jumps with the warm weather."

Moguls caps off the weekend with duals on Sunday at Shymbulak Ski Resort. It is uncommon for duals to be the sole moguls event of a World Cup stop, but the extended travel time to the site - a one-hour bus ride and a 30-minute gondola ride - means less competition time and duals is a shorter day. This is the second year of moguls competition in Kazakhstan, and the team is happy to return. 

“It’s just so different here,” explained Jaelin Kauf. “We’re staying in the city, getting to explore and I feel like we get to see and experience a lot of the culture here.”

Weather forced the cancellation of last week’s Japanese duals event so the Americans are itching to get back in the start gates and battle the world’s best mogul skiers. 

“It’s really sweet to have a duals-only stop on the tour!” said Jaelin. “We don’t get that often so I’m stoked to get right into it! I am considering doing a new trick for duals this week, which would be something really new for me... but it’s exciting! Duals is a different game, so getting right into it is going to be a lot of fun for me. I’m just hoping to have a lot of fun throughout the training days and get in my groove for duals day.”

 

U.S. Starters

Aerials

Women
Ashley Caldwell
Megan Nick
Winter Vinecki
Madison Varmette
Megan Smallhouse
Kaila Kuhn

Men
Eric Loughran
Chris Lillis
Jon Lillis
Justin Schoenefeld
Quinn Dehlinger
Alex Bowen 

Moguls

Women
Tess Johnson
Jaelin Kauf
Hannah Soar
Kai Owens

Men
Kalman Heims
Alex Lewis
Nick Page
Emerson Smith
Dylan Walczyk
Brad Wilson 

HOW TO WATCH 

All times EST

Friday, Feb. 28
2:20 a.m. - Men and women’s aerials, Qi Qaragai, KAZ - OlympicChannel.com, NBC Sports Gold
12:30 p.m. - Men and women’s aerials, Qi Qaragai, KAZ - Olympic Channel*

Sunday, March 1
2:30 a.m. - Men’s and women’s dual moguls, Shymbulak, KAZ - OlympicChannel.com, NBC Sports Gold
9:30 a.m. - Men’s and women’s dual moguls, Shymbulak, KAZ - Olympic Channel*

*Same-day broadcast

Note: All televised events to stream across NBCSports.com, NBC Sports app, OlympicChannel.com, and Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA app

Exclusive commercial-free coverage will be available for subscribers of the NBC Sports Gold Pass, available here: https://www.nbcsports.com/gold/snow.