Q&A with Jaelin Kauf
Mogul skiing runs in the family for Jaelin Kauf — her parents are both former champions on the Pro Mogul Tour. Now she's following a similar path and has a chance to represent the U.S. at the upcoming Olympics.
Earlier this year, we sent Kauf a list of questions. Here's what she had to say.
Tell us about your family.
My mom and dad were both professional skiers, and skied on the Pro Mogul Tour for many years. My dad is a five-time Pro Mogul Tour champion, and my mom is a two-time Pro Mogul Tour champion. My mom also competed in the X Games and won three bronze medals in skier cross. My brother competed in moguls competitively as well. He competed through his senior year of high school and then went to college and played college football in New York.
How influential were they in your athletic career?
I really didn't know anything else besides skiing, I grew up watching old re-run videos of my parents competing, and standing on the podium with my mom at the X Games. My brother was actually the most influential in my athletic career. He is the reason that I love skiing and competing so much. He is only a year older than me and I grew up copying his every move. I actually never really liked moguls when I was young, but he loved them so much and I wanted to ski with him. I eventually gave in and learned to love them as well. He has always pushed me to be the best in everything I do and I would not be in the place without him. My parents have always been so supportive of anything I wanted to do and I think both love that I am in this sport. It's so great that we all love the sport and that they know it so well.
Earliest memory of skiing?
I don't have a first memory of skiing. I was born into the world of skiing. I was raised on the Pro Mogul Tour, and at Mount Hood summer camps. I grew up powder skiing in the heart of the Tetons and in Steamboat champagne powder. Skiing is in my blood. I've fallen more in love with the sport of mogul skiing every day. It's such a huge part of my life and who I am.
Earliest memory of watching the Olympics?
I remember watching Toby Dawson compete at the '06 Olympics on television. It was really cool to watch him ski there because I had known him my whole life. My parents started the Vail freestyle team and coached Toby as a kid. Before I remember, I was going to Mount Hood ski camps with my parents as they coached a handful of kids, including Toby. Seeing him reach that level of competition and greatness was very inspiring. It showed me that if I put in the work and effort, I could be there someday too.
What would people be surprised to learn about training for the Olympics?
I think that people would be surprised to learn how much work we do in such a little amount of time. I think that people get the idea that we train our whole lives for this, which might be true, but each season we are training to compete our best that year. We only have a few months really to prepare until the start of the season when we are expected to be at the top.
How and where do you train over the summer?
In Park City we are able to train in the gym at the Center of Excellence and water ramp at the Utah Olympic Park. We also travel to Whistler, Australia, Mount Hood and Zermatt to train on snow.
Most grueling workout you’ve ever done?
Running the stairs on the 120 Nordic jump at the Utah Olympic Park. I was trying to beat my brother and it just about killed me.
What was the breakthrough moment in your career?
My breakthrough moment happened two years ago at the Deer Valley World Cup. It was only my third start and I wasn't even on the team yet. I was in 14th position after the first run and going into finals I really had nothing to lose. I decide to just ski my run and relax. I have still never felt so great skiing a run. It wasn't the best run I've skied but I was so relaxed and confident. I was in first place going into super finals after that run. That's when I realized that I had the ability to compete at this level. I wasn't pushing the speed or trying too hard, I was just skiing and that's all I have to do.
Who are your biggest rivals?
My biggest rivals are Keaton [McCargo] and Morgan [Schild], and it is very friendly. I think they are my biggest rivals because they are my closest friends on the team and are constantly pushing each other.
I do a warmup and stretching before I go out on the hill. Before my competition run, I do a little warmup at the top of the course, including some leg swings and squats. I do some visualization in my head and practice my jumps. When I am one out of the start gate, I put on my competition song.
Any lucky charms or items you can’t compete without?
I always have a wish bead and a lucky coin my mom gave me in my jacket pocket.
How do you unwind after a competition?
Read my book and play games.
When you have time off, what would constitute a perfect day for you?
I enjoy anything outdoors. I love being in the water, so whether it's playing in the ocean or the lake, I am happy. I enjoy mountain biking, hiking, camping and really anything outdoors.
Do you collect anything?
I collect playing cards. I started collecting them when I was young from places I would travel and it just continued.
Can you tell us something quirky about yourself that people would be amused to learn?
I travel with a Curious George monkey. His name is George Junior.
Do you enjoy traveling?
Yes, I love to travel. The most special place I have traveled to is Zermatt, Switzerland. I think the mountains there are so incredible and it has the most amazing views.
What will success look like for you in PyeongChang?
My goal is to be the top U.S. female athlete and to come home with a medal.