In best run of her career, Tess Johnson upsets Perrine Laffont’s undefeated moguls skiing streak
Perrine Laffont was undefeated through six World Cup moguls skiing competitions this season before she met Tess Johnson on Saturday.
Skiing at the U.S. Ski Team’s home course in Deer Valley, Johnson put on a show for the crowd, beating Laffont to the line in the biggest upset of the night.
Moguls courses have jumps as well as bumps, and in addition to being a race to the finish, contests are also judged for technicality. Johnson said despite the fact that her trick off the first jump wasn’t as difficult as Laffont’s, when she crossed the finish line first, she knew she had a good shot at the win.
“No one had beaten her yet this season, and I knew that I could beat her head to head, because I did it two years ago in Japan, when I won my first World Cup,” Johnson said.
Facing Laffont again in head-to-head competition on Saturday, Johnson said she knew it was her moment to impress the fans at Deer Valley, which she describes as the best crowd in moguls skiing.
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“It was the best I had ever skied, in or out of competition,” Johnson said.
While the upset against Laffont was a win at the quarterfinal level, Johnson was still far from the best World Cup result of her career, despite the fact that she had just put down the best run of her life.
Beating Laffont in quarterfinals ensured three Americans would make it to the final four in the tournament-style event, and for the American team, that was cause for celebration. Even though Johnson would be bested in the next two competitions, finishing fourth for the evening, the U.S. team crowned her MVP of the Deer Valley dual moguls World Cup event. And while it’s not an official award, Johnson said in some ways it was more meaningful.
“That was really special,” Johnson said. “I think it was a win for everyone, beating Perrine. Because she’s such an incredible skier and she’s achieved so much this season, it was a huge upset, and I think that it just paved the way for my teammates and I to potentially sweep the podium. And although we didn’t, I think that night proved that we can, and we will, in the future, and we can all taste it.”
In the end, the U.S. women would finish 2-4, with Canadian skier Justine Dufour-Lapointe taking home the win. But Jaelin Kauf, who finished third, said she too feels a podium sweep is in their future.
“Sharing the podium with a teammate again makes it so much better,” Kauf said. “It was so much fun skiing against Tess and Hannah tonight. From my perspective we had some of the best duals on the women’s side. It was fun to be a part of and I’m stoked to end up on the podium.”
Second-place finisher Hannah Soar agreed.
“There’s nothing more than I would want than to be in the super final with Jaelin and Tess,” she said.
Johnson returned home to Vail following the competition, where she plans to ski and spend time with family. She then plans to head back to Japan, where she earned her first and only World Cup win in 2018. Saturday’s fourth-place result was her top finish of this season so far.
“I think the rest of the season is just about trusting that I am capable of that type of skiing and I’m capable of beating anyone,” she said.
The Tazawako Japan Freestyle Skiing World Cup is scheduled for Feb. 22-23.