Olivia Giaccio competes during the women's freestyle skiing moguls qualifier at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on Feb. 3, 2022 in Zhangjiakou, China.
ZHANGJIAKOU, China – U.S. moguls skiers Jaelin Kauf and Olivia Giaccio led Team USA in the qualifiers Thursday night at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022.
Kauf is the only retuning Olympian on the women’s side and showcased a veteran performance during the qualifying rounds at Genting Snow Park.
The 25-year-old scored a 79.15 off a controlled run featuring a backflip mute grab and backflip iron cross to finish third out of 30. This earned Kauf a top-10 finish and an automatic spot into Sunday’s final.
“I’m stoked I put a solid top to bottom during the start of the Olympics,” Kauf said. “This event, I really want to go out and try to win every round and leave it all out there – 100 percent.”
With this being her second straight Games, Kauf is looking to approach the course differently this time, having finished seventh at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018.
“I’m going into this Games with such a different mindset,” Kauf said. “The last Olympics, I was going in ranked No. 1 and had so much pressure on myself, mostly from myself. I didn’t do everything I had to there, but this time I have some familiarity with competing at the Olympics on this big of a stage and know all that pressure was put on by myself, and it didn’t have to be there.”
Giaccio, 21, finished right behind Kauf in fourth, scoring a 78.11 off a clean sprint with a back full at the top jump and cork 720 at the bottom.
The Redding, Connecticut, native had the honor of being the first freestyle skier to hit the slopes at the Beijing Games.
“I’m really thankful to be here, happy to be skiing and I’m just so excited,” the first-time Olympian said. “It’s definitely fun being the first [freestyle skiing] event. I saw in the run order today that I would be the one to kick it off for Team USA for the entire Games, so that was pretty cool, too.”
U.S. teammate Hannah Soar, 22, finished in seventh, joining Kauf and Giaccio in the finals. Team USA’s Kai Owens, 17, didn’t compete in the first qualifier due to a face injury sustained in training Tuesday night. Depending on her medical team’s evaluation, Owens may still compete in the second qualifier Sunday evening.