The U.S. freestyling skiing team had a strong showing and a pair of athletes took steps toward qualifying for the Olympic team at a moguls world cup event in Thaiwoo, China, on Thursday.
Jaelin Kauf went from a fifth-place finish at the world cup opener to her career-first moguls podium in the second of seven Olympic qualifying events of the season. She is now just one podium finish away from qualifying for her first Olympic team. The 2015-16 FIS rookie of the year in moguls had one previous world cup win last season in dual moguls, which is not part of the Olympic slate. She also has a pair of third-place finishes in dual moguls world cups.
“I feel like I’m floating on cloud nine right now,” Kauf said, according to a U.S. Ski & Snowboard press release. “This is honestly just such a confidence booster moving forward with the rest of the season. I feel like I can relax a little more now and just go out there and ski my runs.”
Team USA had five women in the finals including Kauf. Kazakhstan’s Yulia Galysheva took second place and Canada’s Andi Naude was third.
Americans Mikaela Matthews, Tess Johnson, Keaton McCargo and Morgan Schild all finished among the top 10.
Troy Murphy, meanwhile, earned the first podium finish of his career when he was third in the men’s final. Canada’s Mikael Kingsbury was the winner and Matt Graham of Australia was second, while three American men qualified for the finals. Emerson Smith also finished among the top 10 at sixth overall.
Murphy is the top-ranked American and finished last season ranked No. 6 in the world cup standings, but despite six top-10 finishes he had not made the podium before Thursday.
Up to three athletes per gender will qualify for the Olympic team with two world cup podium finishes. The competition continues with another moguls event in Thaiwoo on Friday.
Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.