Who is Jaelin Kauf?
Name: Jaelin Kauf
Country: United States
Sport: Freestyle Skiing
2016/17 World Cup ranking: 7th
Kauf has not yet competed at a Winter Olympics. PyeongChang 2018 will be her debut.
Heading into January 2018, Kauf currently holds the World Cup points lead in women's moguls. In the midst of what's shaping up to be a possible breakout season for the 21-year-old, she has become one of the U.S. moguls team's top hopes for a medal in PyeongChang.
Kauf's speed has been setting her apart from the competition. At each of the first three stops of the 2017/18 World Cup season, she posted the fastest run of the super final.
Kauf was born into a family of mogul skiers. Both of her parents were champions on the Pro Mogul Tour — her dad won five titles, her mother won two. Her mother, Patti, later competed in X Games as a ski cross racer and won three medals. Kauf recalls standing on the X Games podium with her mother when she was young.
"I really didn't know anything else besides skiing," Kauf says of her childhood.
She also grew up with a brother who was one year older than her and loved skiing, and she credits him with helping push her to where she's at now. "I grew up copying his every move," Kauf says. "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."
Road to PyeongChang
In 2015, Kauf earned a bronze medal in moguls at the junior world championships and then began competing on the World Cup circuit one season later. It was at a 2016 World Cup stop at Deer Valley that she had a confidence-boosting moment.
"It was only my third start and I wasn't even on the team yet," Kauf recalls. "I was in 14th position after the first run and going into finals, I really had nothing to lose. I decided to just ski my run and relax. I had 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."
That result helped earn her Rookie of the Year honors in 2016.
Kauf's first World Cup victory would come a year later in Tazawako, Japan, though it came in the non-Olympic discipline of dual moguls. Kauf ended the 2016/17 season ranked No. 7 in the World Cup rankings, then won a bronze medal in dual moguls at the world championships.
Since the start of the 2017/18 season, Kauf has been on fire. She opened the season with a fifth-place finish in Ruka, Finland, then had back-to-back podium finishes across two races in Thaiwoo, China. (She won the first competition, then placed second a day later.) Another second-place finish at Deer Valley assured her of a spot on the 2018 U.S. Olympic team.
Off the snow
Kauf stays active with a variety of outdoor hobbies. She lists biking, hiking, surfing, wakeboarding and water skiing among her favorite activities outside of traditional skiing. "I enjoy biking because it can be very technical and I think translates a lot to skiing," Kauf says. "It can get my adrenaline pumping."
When she travels, Kauf takes a "Curious George" monkey, which she has named George Junior, along with her.
"Jaelin introduced herself to the world this week. It's great to see all the work she put in during the prep period pay off. She proved she's one of the fastest mogul skiers and, with [back-to-back podiums in China], she has proven that she can dominate in both singles and duals." — U.S. Ski Team head moguls coach Matt Gnoza (Dec. 2017, U.S. Ski & Snowboard)