Owens leads U.S. sweep in Utah; Johnson third
Kai gets first World Cup win
Ea-gle Coun-ty. Ea-gle Coun-ty.
Not only did the Americans sweep the podium during Friday night’s World Cup dual moguls competition in Deer Valley, Utah, but the podium had a very local flavor.
Avon’s Kai Owens won the first World Cup of her career with Hannah Soar, of Vermont, in second. West Vail’s Tess Johnson was third, giving Eagle County bookend podium finishes.
That made for a pretty nice night of racing.
“It’s unreal, I’m feeling like I’m on cloud nine right now,” said Owens via a U.S. Ski Team press release. “I’m so lucky to share it with my teammates. I put everything I had in today, so I’m just really feeling honored and excited to be here.”
This is a life-changer for Owens. Were there any doubts about Owens making the FIS Freestyle World Ski Championships in Almaty, Kazakhstan, after her fourth-place finish on Friday, the’re gone. While Owens cannot incur the wrath of the ski gods by saying that she’s going, her invitation most likely is in the mail or the Internet.
Owens, 16, is also on a meteoric rise within the U.S. Freestyle Team. She made her World Cup debut a little more than a year ago. Her first World Cup points were on Jan. 25, 2020 in Tremblant, Quebec, with an 11th place finish in singles. One week later, she had her first top 10 in Calgary, Alberta.
Owens opened 2020-21 with a sixth-place finish in singles in Finland, was fourth on Thursday and took the top step on Friday.
Johnson, 20, was probably not thinking her Friday would end on the podium. Johnson broke one of her skis in Friday’s pre-race training, and, according to the U.S. Team, did think about pulling out of Friday’s comp.
Johnson kept with it and got on a roll until the semifinals when she met up with Owens. Reaction No. 1: Darn kids, these days. Reaction No. 2: If these two meet in a World Cup bracket, could the race be moved to Cookshack or Grouse Mountain?
All kidding aside, Owens said, according to the release. “Tess is like my best friend and older sister. We’ve been training together for the past month, so I was just ready to put on a show and give it everything I had and show everyone here and at home what we could do.”
Owens, indeed pulled the upset over her teammate — and former roommate; they bunked together last year.
“It was a close one, I wanted to get her, but it was so much fun and I love dueling teammates in the round of four,” Johnson said. “I got pretty emotional earlier. Ever since I’ve made the team I’ve wanted (to see a podium sweep) almost more than individual success. Sweeping the podium with these girls, its a dream come true, it really is. They’re my sisters, they’re my best friends, it feels unreal. It’s an honor to be on such a progressive, hardworking women’s team.”
Yes, she wanted the win, but Johnson bounced back to take third and should take a ton of confidence into worlds in Almaty come March.