Lemley places fifth, Owens sixth in final World Cup moguls event before Olympics
Tess Johnson remains positioned for fourth Olympic spot after Deer Park, Utah finale
Coming into the final World Cup mogul event at Deer Valley, at least one — but likely two — spots remained to be claimed for the U.S. Olympic team. The problem: The four girls fighting for those spots could all legitimately contend for medals in Beijing. With the athlete holding the best top-3 finish from one of the designated qualifying events being awarded the coveted slots, it was high drama at the 2002 Salt Lake Olympic course Friday afternoon in Utah.
To set the stage: with a first-place and a fifth-place finish in said events already to her name, Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club’s Olivia Giaccio’s sat in the driver’s seat heading into Friday’s finale. Tess Johnson, having finished third on two occasions, held the keys to a fourth spot, if it’s eventually allocated towards the unusually deep women’s mogul crew.
Theoretically, a victory Saturday would have pushed her into a tie with Giaccio, which Johnson would win on the strength of her second-best finish in tryout events. Meanwhile, SSCV teammate Kai Owens entered Friday with a third-place finish and a seventh-place finish on her resume, while newcomer to the party, 15-year old Elizabeth Lemley, also of SSCV, came with a fourth and sixth-place from Tremblant, Canada, and Thursday’s Deer Valley events, respectively.
In order to keep their Olympic dreams alive, Owens and Lemley were in need of a second or first-place finish.
In the 16-athlete first final, all six qualifying Americans — a demonstration of their depth if there ever was one — flexed their muscles.
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Johnson led off with a cleanly executed run top-to-bottom, posting a 75.88. Lemley, known for her high degree of difficulty jumps, used a monster pair of aerial packages to post a 79.12. Then, Owens enthusiastically qualified for the super final, pumping her fists as she crossed with a 77.81. Giaccio followed up with an even better score, her 81.04 knocking Johnson out of the necessary top-six position needed to make the medal round.
With nothing to lose, Owens and Lemley skied aggressively in final number two. After nailing her off-axis 720 top air, Owens’s skis separated slightly halfway down the middle section, lowering her final score to just 73.96. When it was all said and done, she would have to settle for sixth.
Lemley was plagued by a kick out of her skis in the long middle section as well, losing valuable turn points before a slightly rear-weighted final jump landing further lowered her score to 76.30, good for fifth.
Giaccio skied cleanly but conservatively, her 76.79 holding onto fourth place.
In the end, the podium contained familiar names: Anri Kawamura of Japan in first, Jakara Anthony of Australia in second, and France’s Perrine Laffont in third. As far as Beijing goes, the U.S.’s selection committee has a tough task ahead of them.
According to the criteria posted on the U.S. Ski and Snowboard website, the third quota slot “and any quota slot(s) remaining unfilled will be allocated based on an athlete having at least one (1) top three result, in the identified tryout events.” Given those standards, it would appear that Giaccio remains assured a spot, with Johnson going to the 2022 Games if a fourth spot is used on the mogul team.
The maximum number of athletes in an event for any nation at the Games is four. The FIS Freestyle Moguls quotas list indicates that the U.S. has four spots for the event for both men and women. The maximum members for the U.S. Freestyle/Freeski team — which includes halfpipe, slopestyle, big air, moguls, aerials and ski cross — is 32. It is reasonable to assume that if any event receives a fourth spot, the women’s mogul team will be near the front of the line.
The official nomination of athletes form, including replacements, will be announced to all athletes and submitted to the USOPC on or before Jan. 21.