Vail’s Kai Owens earns first singles moguls World Cup podium
Ski and Snowboard Club Vail’s Tess Johnson finishes eighth and Dylan Walczyk finishes 11th
It was a day of firsts for the U.S. women’s mogul freestyle ski team Saturday morning in frigid Finland.
Park City Utah’s Olivia Giaccio, who competes for Steamboat Winter Sports Club, won her first career World Cup, handing France’s Perrine Laffont her first defeat since 2019. Laffont won all nine World Cups between the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons, including last season’s world championships.
Joining Giaccio on the podium was Australia’s Jakara Anthony and Vail’s own Kai Owens. It was the 17-year old Owens’ first singles World Cup podium in the mogul event. In 2021, she won a dual moguls World Cup event in Deer Valley.
“For me personally, the first event of the season is always super nerve-wracking,” Owens told U.S. Ski & Snowboard’s Lara Carlton. “You’re coming off training and a huge break from competing. You don’t really know where you stand. It’s nice to know this is where I’m at and focus on how I can improve my performance from this.”
The athletes were greeted with frigid conditions in Ruka, where the sun currently rises at shortly after 10 a.m. and sets three-and-a-half hours later. The Olympic-style qualification format was contested under the lights, similar to the World Cup cross-country ski races the prior weekend. There were two rounds of qualification runs, with the top eight finishers advancing to the final rounds. Last year, Ruka was the site of Owens’s first super finals appearance, where she finished sixth.
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“Ruka is an amazing course and it really highlights my skiing,” Owens told U.S. Ski & Snowboard. “It always has some big airs, I really like that bottom air, it’s drop-y and big. It’s early season, the first event, I was really nervous for every run, but that keeps me on my toes, keeps me ready and focused on my skiing.”
Owens’ jump package, which contained a top cork 720 to a bottom cork 720 grab, had the highest degree of difficulty in the field. “It’s exciting for me, keeps me challenged, keeps me chasing, striving and pushing,” she said about her aerial arsenal.
“But today I am most proud of my skiing, I made some big improvements from last season.”
Owens’ Ski and Snowboard Club Vail teammate Tess Johnson was another one of the five U.S. women who made the finals. She finished in eighth place. The tightly-knit women’s team showed pride over their peers’ performances, with the victorious Giacco, who overcame a season-ending injury in 2019, speaking toward the team’s many positives on the day.
“There were a lot of big wins from everyone today,” she said to U.S. Ski & Snowboard. “Morgan coming back from injury, Tess doing her cork in competition. Cole making it into supers. It was cool to see, it’s one of the exciting aspects of competition beyond the numbers and results.”
The World Cup season continues in moguls Dec. 11-12 in Idre Fjall, Sweden.
5. Hannah Soar – 75.38
8. Tess Johnson – 75.27
14. Jaelin Kauf – 69.02
23. Morgan Schild – 66.74