Vail skier Tess Johnson wins World Cup event in Tazawako, Japan
Local skier Tess Johnson notched her first-ever World Cup podium on Sunday, March 4, and that podium was also a win.
Johnson, 17, took down a heavy field en route to victory in the dual moguls competition, which pits skiers against each other in a head-to-head race that is also judged for its technical prowess and difficultly on the course’s two jumps. It’s a bracket-style elimination event, with the winner of the dual advancing to the next round.
Being first to the finish helps, but doesn’t guarantee victory. Johnson was the first to the finish in every race she took part in on Sunday, which included a head-to-head against Perrine Laffont, the 2018 Olympic gold medalist in moguls.
“I think had I not have been first to the finish in that dual I would not have won,” Johnson said.
The rainy and humid conditions made things fast on the course, causing a lot of competitors to lose their footing and make mistakes.
Johnson, who is also a star soccer player known for her footwork, excelled in the tricky conditions.
“The fast snow was good for me because my speed has been something I’ve struggled with a bit this season,” Johnson said. “It felt amazing.”
‘SUCH A SPECTATOR SPORT’
The dual moguls discipline of freestyle skiing, while not (yet) an Olympic event, is known by spectators to be even more exciting version of the competition.
The World Cup competitions in Japan on Saturday and Sunday were the first big moguls events since the Olympics wrapped up in February, Johnson finished 12th at the Olympics single moguls competition, and eighth in the Saturday, March 3, singles moguls event in Japan. Sunday’s dual moguls event was the first dual moguls World Cup of the season, due to the fact that in Olympic years singles moguls is the only event on the calendar in advance of the Olympics.
Tess Johnson’s father, TJ Johnson, said if he were to guess which discipline his daughter’s first World Cup would come from, he would have guessed singles moguls.
Johnson’s parents and 15-year-old brother got to watch her final dual moguls race live on Sunday from their home in Vail, where they just moved from Edwards. To watch her win a dual moguls competition live was an incredibly exciting experience, the Johnsons said.
“It’s such a spectator sport,” Carol Johnson said of dual moguls.
“We were all crowded around the laptop watching and cheering her, and then as soon as she won we got out our phones and took pictures of her on laptop,” she added, laughing.
TJ Johnson said the family is still in disbelief.
“Honestly we’re still wrapping our heads around the Olympics,” he said. “That still feels like a dream, it all happened so fast.”
STILL HAS SCHOOL, SOCCER
Speaking from Japan on Monday, Tess Johnson said the support she’s always received everyone back in Eagle County was on her mind as she basked in the win.
TJ Johnson said in addition to Tess’ skills on her skis, growing up in an area where she was exposed to top level coaching and facilities, and having the support of the community in fundraising and other efforts, has helped her reach the top level.
“She’s gotten great coaching and great facilities, and it’s been a number of different fundraising efforts by friends, family and community, to keep this going,” he said. “Ski & Snowboard Club Vail has supported her, the school system has supported her, the community with friendship and fundraising, it really has taken a village.”
Johnson, who is currently a senior at Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy, will be back home for a few days before hitting the road again for another dual moguls World Cup in Switzerland. When the season wraps up later this month, she will have to turn to schoolwork to meet her goal of graduating from high school on June 1.
“I’ll have to take a week away from anything physical and just focus on school,” she said. “But I have every intention of graduating on time and playing soccer, as well.”
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.