Kai Owens, Tess Johnson and US women’s moguls team remain the best in the world
After finals cancellation in Kazakhstan, Team USA celebrates successful season
As skiers and snowboarders in the Vail Valley woke up to a powder day Sunday morning, snow and fog in Kazakhstan forced the FIS Freestyle Moguls World Cup Tour to come to a close with the cancellation of the Dual Moguls World Cup Finals in Almaty.
“The team wanted to get out there and compete today, it’s what we came here for,” head moguls coach Matt Gnoza said in a U.S. Ski Team news release. “They want to put the bib on and show the world what they’re made of.”
With the final event canceled, the U.S. Ski Team then had a lot to celebrate in Kazakhstan — including the women’s moguls team continuing its dominance, claiming the title of best women’s moguls team in the world for the third year running behind four of the top six finishes.
The valley’s Kai Owens finished fourth; and Tess Johnson finished sixth. Owens also won Rookie of the Year honors, which not only take into account an athlete’s results, but their “character and conduct off the course.”
“There are a lot of amazing skiers out there, our women’s field as a whole has been getting so good and competitive,” Owens said in the U.S. Ski Team announcement. “To be here and to be competing and amongst all of these veterans is really cool. I’ve been working really hard to improve my weak points, for me that’s my base score, so I’ve been doing a lot of ski work. I played my strength, which is jumping. I’m honored to be up there as one of the best female jumpers, so that’s really exciting for me.”
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Owens, 16, qualified for finals in every World Cup she entered this season and earned her first podium in February during dual moguls at Deer Valley. Johnson, 20, also continued her successful career representing the PowHERhouse moguls team. She won the best American finish in the world championships with a fifth place finish.
“I really wanted Rookie of the Year, it was definitely a goal. I wasn’t sure if I was within the criteria this season. So my main goals were just performing and skiing my best, seeing where that put me, and building confidence for next season,” Owens added. “Rookie of the Year is kind of a cherry on top. I also just want to say a big thank you to everybody (here and at home) for being here for us and making [the season] happen.”
As a team, the U.S. won the FIS Freestyle Nations Cup in moguls for the first time since 2013, beating out Japan. With the aerials team clinching their discipline Saturday, the U.S. now has the best freestyle ski team in the world. Sunday marks the end of the season, with athletes already looking forward to next year.
“I’ve been with the team for eight years and in my second year winning the Nations Cup was one of the goals wrote down for myself as head coach,” Gnoza said in the U.S. Ski Team announcement. “Every athlete that competed on World Cup this season contributed to the point total to earn it.”