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U.S. Moguls Team Fired Up For Tazawako World Cup Events

By Lara Carlton
February, 21 2019
Jesse Andringa
Jesse Andringa previews the moguls course in Tazawako, Japan, Thursday. (U.S. Ski & Snowboard)

 

After a much-deserved rest from the 2019 FIS World Championships in Utah, the U.S. Moguls Team is back in the gate for a double World Cup event in Tazawako, Japan, with moguls February 23 and dual moguls February 24. This is their penultimate World Cup stop, and with the pressure leading into World Championships behind them, the Americans are excited to ski at their favorite international venue.

“The stressful part of the season is over so I’m super stoked to just ski,” said Hunter Bailey (Vail, Colo.) “It’s going to be fun, I feel good.”

Well into their groove, the team’s strategy as the season winds down is to ski clean runs and have strong finishes so they can end the season with good rankings. The ultimate goal is to cut down bib numbers. And there’s no better place to do so than at Tazawako, where the U.S. has a strong history of success. Americans have topped the Japanese podium six times in the last three seasons, including three wins: Tess Johnson (Vail, Colo.) won her first World Cup title in duals in 2018, Jaelin Kauf (Alta, Wyo.) claimed duals victory in 2017 and Bradley Wilson (Butte, Mont.) came first in moguls in 2016.

Tazawako is located in the Akita province of Japan, south of the famed powder fields of the northern island. Weather this time of year can be unpredictable and the challenge this weekend will be the snow.

“The snow is tough,” said Matt Gnoza, Head Moguls Coach for U.S. Ski & Snowboard. “There’s been a lot of wet, heavy snow and it has made the course slippery. It’s hard to get an edge in, which may make it unforgiving during competition. For athletes to find success here they will have to have good execution of fundamentals: staying in front of their boots, onto the front of their skis, with good pressure on their turning foot so that they can have the most control.”

What Gnoza doesn’t foresee as a challenge is the double event. “We’ll monitor training loads the first two days and make sure no one is over-training,” explains Gnoza. “Thursday was all about getting familiar with the snow, course and set up. We’ll polish things on Friday and then really turn it up for competition on Saturday and Sunday. The adrenaline will carry these guys through to Sunday. We’re in the grind of it now as we wind down the competition season.”

While athletes won’t be unveiling anything new or crazy, what is new this week is Tom Rowley (Long Beach, N.Y.) returning to competition from injury. This is his first World Cup of the 2019 season. “It’s exciting to be back,” said Rowley. “I got to forerun at World Championships, which got me excited for Tazawako. I’ve podiumed here in the past and I usually like to ski here. The snow can get weird, but it’s fun - I love Japan.”

Athletes to watch include Kauf and Johnson, ranked third and fifth respectively, both of whom podiumed at World Championships and have a shot at an overall World Cup title or podium for the 2019 season. On the men’s side, watch for Wilson, who just claimed his second consecutive World Championships silver medal in duals. “Brad is always dangerous here,” said Gnoza. “He’s a fan favorite.”

Currently, the U.S. is in hot contention for the Nation’s Cup, sitting in second place. If the team finds success in Tazawako they will very much be in striking distance of the Cup, a feat not accomplished in recent memory for the moguls team.

Tazawako will provide the perfect opportunity for the Americans to focus on skiing and skiing well. The venue sets athletes up for success with a well-organized event, from the hotel and meal accommodations to shuttle services and enthusiastic crowds. “The atmosphere here is second to probably only Deer Valley, it’s the best international stop on the tour,” said Gnoza. “There’s always high energy from the crowd, with music and horns and cheering. U.S. moguls skiers are fan favorites here.”

Starters
Women

  • Jaelin Kauf
  • Tess Johnson
  • Olivia Giaccio
  • Nessa Dziemian
  • Hannah Soar
  • Alex Jenson

Men

  • Bradley Wilson
  • Casey Andringa
  • Jesse Andringa
  • Hunter Bailey
  • Dylan Walczyk
  • Tom Rowley
  • George McQuinn

HOW TO WATCH
All times EST

Friday, Feb. 22
11:30 p.m. - Men and women’s moguls - Tazawako, JPN - Olympic Channel-TV, OlympicChannel.com & NBC Sports Gold

Saturday, Feb. 23
11:30 p.m. - Men and women’s dual moguls - Tazawako, JPN - Olympic Channel-TV, OlympicChannel.com & NBC Sports Gold