Cota, Kauf fly to dual moguls podium | SteamboatToday.com

Cota, Kauf fly to dual moguls podium

Steamboat Springs skier Jaelin Kauf roars down Voo Doo run on Sunday during the U.S. Freestyle National Championship at Steamboat Ski Area. She went on to finish second.

— An extra pair of skis is simply a part of a moguls competition, Jeremy Cota explained.

The Steamboat Springs and U.S. Ski Team moguls skier hauls an extra set of skis up to the moguls course for his runs the same way he brings a helmet, googles and gloves.

It's just a part of the process.

Well, the extra set of skis is usually part of the process, anyway. Sunday's dual moguls event was the last of the weekend for the U.S. Freestyle National Championships, and the last of the season for the nation's top moguls skiers.

What could possibly go wrong?

Cota found out what could go wrong when he landed below the top jump during the men's national championship semifinals. His skis fell apart and he quickly lost control, veering into the snow.

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He ended up skiing the rest of the way down the course on one ski, then, using a loaner pair from a friend, won in the consolation finals to secure third place in the event.

He was one of two Steamboat Springs athletes to shine on the event's final day. Jaelin Kauf broke through on the women's side, placing second.

"It's great to finish the season on a high note," Cota said. "I wish I hadn't crashed, but what are you going to do?"

Cota was skiing in a dual against Bradley Wilson when his ski exploded. Wilson never looked back and went on to win the men's championship, beating Joey Discoe in the finals dual.

For Wilson, the win was a sweet relief after a knee injury sidelined him for nearly two full seasons.

Before this weekend he was last seen at a national championship event winning the dual moguls in 2014 at Deer Valley Resort in Utah.

He missed all of the 2015 season, including the nationals in Steamboat, before returning midway through the 2016 season.

He won his first event back, a World Cup in Japan, and didn't finish outside in either of the next two.

He was fifth in Thursday's single moguls event, then Sunday was back to his course-ripping self, torching the competition down Voo Doo run and winning going away.

After missing so much time, he proved he's still got it.

"You never want to worry about that, but it's always in your brain," he said about whether or not he'd be able to return from his injury.

"In Japan, when I won the World Cup, there was a ton of weight that went off of me. This is just a little addition to that, for sure. … It puts a cherry on top of the season."


Kauf lands in second

On the women's side, the finals proved a flashback — or nearly so, anyway — to one of the best days of Kauf's life.

The Steamboat teenager stormed onto the World Cup moguls scene in February at Deer Valley Resort first with a sixth-place finish in a moguls event, then, two days later, with a third-place finish in dual moguls.

Her opponent in the last match of that day, a win that put her on the podium: U.S. Ski Team member Mikaela Matthews, one of the best dual moguls skiers in the world.

Sunday, the pair met again, this time in the U.S. National Championship finals.

Kauf sped ahead and was the first to the bottom air.

Matthews, meanwhile, tried to keep her cool.

Speed is only one factor in dual moguls. It's combined with judges' scores for skiing and tricks to yield a winner for every head-to-head matchup.

"Jaelin's fast. It's impressive, and she can really carry a lot of speed through that middle section," Matthews said. "But, I also know she can be a little inconsistent on that bottom air, so I was trying to stick to my run, ski as fast as I could and still keep it a good, quality run."

That bottom air was exactly the problem for Kauf, who struggled through a flip off the jump. She was slow enough in rotating, she said, she was afraid she wouldn’t land on her feet.

She did, but couldn't hold it, and her bottom hit the snow before she regained her balance and skied down.

Matthews, who won a dual moguls World Cup event to start the season, managed to complete her own run clean and won her first national title.

"I started the year with a victory and ended with a victory, so I'm pretty excited," she said.

Kauf, too, came away excited about the result.

She was second and U.S. Ski Team member Nessa Dziemian was third to round out the podium.

"It was an awesome day," she said. "There was a great crowd from Steamboat up supporting us and I had my best results at a nationals. I couldn't have asked for a better day."

U.S. Freestyle National Championahips dual moguls results

Women

  1. Mikaela Matthews
  2. Jaelin Kauf
  3. Nessa Dziemian

Men

  1. Bradley Wilson
  2. Joey Discoe
  3. Jeremy Cota