Vail’s Elizabeth Lemley leads locals in first day of Deer Valley World Cup |

Vail’s Elizabeth Lemley leads locals in first day of Deer Valley World Cup

15-year old paces Americans in third career World Cup start as Johnson and Owens fall out of super final

United States' Elizabeth Lemley competes in the World Cup freestyle moguls competition at Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah, on Thursday. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

The final weekend of Olympic mogul qualifying events in Deer Valley was billed as a showdown between Kai Owens, Tess Johnson and Olivia Giaccio for the remaining two spots on the powerhouse 2022 U.S. Olympic team. Prognosticators forgot about a certain Vail-based World Cup rookie — apparently, when you aren’t old enough to have your driver’s license, it’s easy to be overlooked.

Competing in just her third career World Cup on Thursday afternoon, 15-year-old Elizabeth Lemley threw her name into the ring, too, tearing up the 2002 Salt Lake Olympic course in the first final run and qualifying for the six-person super final, where a fall on her top air would result in a sixth-place finish.

The result comes after a fourth-place finish in Tremblant, Canada, last weekend, where she finished 0.01 points behind her SSCV teammate, Johnson. Perrine Laffont of France won her 24th career World Cup Thursday as Anri Kawamura of Japan claimed silver. Australia’s Jakara Anthony continued her podium streak — she hasn’t been out of the top three in 2021-2022 — skiing cleanly throughout all three rounds to finish in third.

“I would say my skiing is getting better and better — same with the jumps — and I just can’t wait for the Olympics,” Laffont told a finish-line reporter. When asked about her focus leading up to Beijing, she said, “To be safe, I would say. It’s so stressful this year with COVID.”

United States' Kai Owens competes in the World Cup freestyle moguls competition Thursday at Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

In the qualifying round, Giaccio paced the Americans, her 73.99 score just besting Owens in fourth (73.05), Johnson in sixth 72.04, Lemley in eighth (70.83) and Hannah Soar (69.21) in 10th. Jaelin Kauf — who along with Soar, has already qualified for Beijing — failed to qualify for finals.

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The steep upper section of the course gave the Americans problems in the final two rounds.

Soar’s skis went crossed into a wedge going up the first jump, which threw off her landing badly. Johnson executed her top air off-axis 720 cork, but found trouble as she approached the second bump off of the jump’s exit. Her score of 72.60 was only good for 10th.

Owens, who was in concussion protocol from a fall last month in France — forcing her to sit out of last weekend’s World Cup in Canada — also uncharacteristically struggled in her first aerial package, sliding to a halt before recovering and finishing the run in 16th.

Even Lemley wasn’t immune to the steep top section of the aptly named Championship run, a 248-meter-long course whose slope averages 28 degrees. Though she showed poise in recovering from a close call up top in the first final, her aggressive amplitude forced her off course in the super final, where she only achieved a score of 35.62. Giaccio wasn’t much better off, struggling to a 49.84 fifth-place finish.

Of the five Colorado athletes — SSCV’s Lemley, Johnson and Owens, and Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club’s Giaccio — two will be left off of the deep mogul squad. The final objective selection, to be determined by an athlete’s best finish at one of the designated tryout events, currently belongs to Giaccio courtesy of her victory in the Ruka, Finland, opener Dec. 4. Johnson and Owens each have third-place finishes, meaning they would need a win on Friday to force a tie with Giaccio. Of course, Lemley could win, too, throwing an additional curve ball at coaches already forced with leaving at least one medal contender at home in February.

On the men’s side, SSCV alumni Dylan Walczyk finished in 25th.

Friday’s competition is the last Olympic qualifying event. Finals for men and women are at 2 p.m.

Tess Johnson competes in the World Cup freestyle moguls competition at Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah, on Thursday. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)


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