Owens and Andringa Achieve Career Bests at the 2021 Intermountain Healthcare Freestyle International
Both Kai Owens and Jesse Andringa achieved career-best finishes on Thursday in the mogul’s event at the International FIS Ski World Cup at Deer Valley Resort. Exactly one year out from the 2022 Beijing Olympics, the athletes turned up the heat on a notoriously steep, tough course to push their results to new heights on home soil.
At just 16-years-old, Owens capitalized on her run in the first final to qualify as the sole representative for the United States in the final round of six. Thus far, Owens had made finals in every mogul’s event she has competed in this season, but Thursday was the closest she’s ever coming to stepping on the podium, finishing just 2.2 points out in fourth place. Having battled some serious nerves in the morning, a top-five was more than she could hope for.
“Being on World Cup last year, I gained a lot of experience,” said Owens. “I learned a lot last year in the struggle of Deer Valley, so I came out today. I overcame a lot this morning since last year I didn’t do that well here, so I’m really proud to come out and get redemption. This course is a real beast, it’s really tough, but I really like the challenge.”
Owens fourth place finished bumped her world ranking up from 11th to 8th in her second season competing on the World Cup tour.
“I’m really happy with the performance from Kai Owens today, she really stepped up,” said Head Moguls Coach Matt Gnoza. “She was amazingly nervous this morning and corralled it and skied like Kai Owens. She trusted her skills and her ability and took it all the way to fourth place. A podium is in her future for sure.”
France's Perrine Laffont remained podium-perfect with her fourth World Cup victory of the season. Japan finished second and third with Anri Kawamura and Kisara Sumiyoshi, respectively.
Americans Tess Johnson, Hannah Soar, and Jaelin Kauf also qualified for the first round of finals but were unable to break into the top six, finishing 8th, 9th, and 16th respectively. Kauf, currently ranked second in the world, returned from four weeks off nursing a major back injury to compete in the Intermountain Healthcare Freestyle International. Her second air was a close call, just enough to light a fire under her going into the dual mogul event on Friday.
“Jaelin is a warrior, hard-charging Jaelin,” commented Gnoza. “We’re just happy to have her back upright on skis and going down the mogul course. I wouldn’t want to go against Jaelin tomorrow in the duals.”
The rest of the women’s mogul team finished within the top-30 with Avital Carroll in 18th, followed by Olivia Giaccio in 22nd, Sabrina Cass in 25th, Madison Hogg in 27th, and Kenzie Radway in 30th.
On the men’s side, Andringa followed up on his 2020 career-best in Deer Valley with yet another strong finish. A close attempt at a tail grab into a cork 7 followed by a D spin put together an air package that allowed Andringa to break into his first top-10 against a stacked competition field. After a tough start to the season in December, Andringa came home and took some time to focus and make adjustments to his skiing in order to come out on Thursday and lay it down in front of friends and family.
“I’ve been putting a ton of work in mentally to be able to compete because in the past I haven’t competed where I wanted to,” Andringa reflected. “I put two really good runs down for myself today and grabbed a top 10, my personal best. I’d like to be in the top six but that’s to come.”
Dylan Walczyk also had a strong finish for the United States, just barely missing the top six in the first final and overall finishing the day in seventh, grabbing yet another top-10 result for the 27-year-old. U.S. Ski & Snowboard veteran Bradley Wilson sent it big on his first air in final one, but scrubbed his landing and ended the day in 16th overall. Alex Lewis finished the day in 19th, followed by Nick Page in 23rd, Ian Beauregard in 25th, Wyatt Antkiewicz in 29th (his career-first World Cup finish), and Joel Hedrick in 34th.
Canada's Mikael Kingsury made an incredible return from injury to claim victory, France's Benjamin Cavet placed second and Australia's Matt Graham placed third.
Unlike years past, the 2021 Intermountain Healthcare Freestyle International day-time start schedule allows for more time to focus and get some rest before the athletes head into the dual mogul event on Friday. Gnoza says the plan tonight is to go home, analyze video and judging scores, and take the extra time to calm the nerves and prepare for the next competition.
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*Subject to change
All times EST
Friday, Feb. 5
2:30 p.m., Intermountain Healthcare Freestyle International Dual Moguls World Cup - LIVE, Deer Valley, USA, Broadcast Olympic Channel, Streaming Olympic Channel and Peacock
8:30 p.m., Intermountain Healthcare Freestyle International Moguls World Cup - next-day broadcast, Deer Valley, USA, Broadcast NBCSN
Saturday, Feb. 6
4:30 p.m., Intermountain Healthcare Freestyle International Aerials World Cup - LIVE, Deer Valley, USA, Broadcast Olympic Channel, Streaming Olympic Channel, and Peacock
Sunday, Feb. 7
8:00 p.m., Intermountain Healthcare Freestyle International Dual Moguls World Cup - next-day broadcast, Deer Valley, USA, Broadcast NBCSN
9:30 p.m., Intermountain Healthcare Freestyle International Aerials World Cup - next-day broadcast, Deer Valley, USA, Broadcast NBCSN
Sunday, Feb 21
1:00 p.m., Intermountain Healthcare Freestyle International Moguls World Cup - Deer Valley, USA, NBC Sports
Sunday, March 14
12:00 p.m., Intermountain Healthcare Freestyle International Aerials World Cup - Deer Valley, USA, NBC Sports