Jaelin Kauf surges atop U.S. moguls with World Cup breakthrough

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With Hannah Kearney retired, there’s an opening for a new leader of the U.S. women’s moguls team. Jaelin Kauf may be that skier.

The 21-year-old from Wyoming notched her first World Cup moguls win in Thaiwoo, China, on Thursday, moving halfway to automatic qualification for her first Olympics.

Kauf continued a recent rise. She was FIS Rookie of the Year in moguls in 2015-16, then recorded her first World Cup win (in the non-Olympic event of dual moguls) last season.

She was also the top American at a February World Cup event at the PyeongChang Olympic venue in fifth place, plus took dual moguls bronze at the March world championships.

Kauf’s parents were both pro tour moguls champions. They never competed in the Olympics, but both later took up ski cross. Her mom made an X Games podium in 2002.

Kauf jostled with Morgan Schild and Keaton McCargo for top U.S. female moguls skier last season, but now she’s in the driver’s seat for one of three automatic Olympic berths through two of seven selection events.

A skier must make two podiums among the events to be eligible for automatic selection, and Kauf’s win is the only podium so far.

The U.S. women’s moguls team could end up with four total athletes in PyeongChang.

Troy Murphy took third in the men’s event Thursday to become the first U.S. man to make a podium in Olympic qualifying.

Kearney was part of the last three Olympic teams but retired in March 2015 after amassing two Olympic medals, three world titles and a record-tying 46 World Cup wins.

The PyeongChang favorites start with Australian Britt Cox, who won seven of 11 World Cup moguls and dual moguls events last season, plus the world title.

Cox was the youngest competitor at the 2010 Olympics in any sport at age 15, then finished fifth in Sochi. She won the season-opening World Cup event on Dec. 9 but was 25th on Thursday, her worst result in nearly seven years.

Sochi Olympic champion Justine Dufour-Lapointe of Canada made six World Cup podiums last season and was third at worlds.

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IOC: ‘More exciting initiatives’ for Korean unity in PyeongChang

AP
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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — Olympic organizers on Friday welcomed an agreement between North and South Korea to unite athletes at the PyeongChang Winter Games and promised that “much more exciting initiatives” promoting Korean unity will emerge this weekend.

“Watch this space,” International Olympic Committee presidential spokesman Mark Adams told The Associated Press in an interview, a day before a crucial meeting of Korean delegations at Olympics headquarters in Lausanne.

He declined to elaborate, saying the decisions would come Saturday.

Referring to a detailed peace-making agreement between the rival countries announced Thursday by South Korea’s Unification Ministry, including a joint team in the women’s hockey tournament, Adams said it was “great … but these are discussions” — meaning the IOC had not yet given the deal the final green light.

“I can tell you that there will also be some much more exciting initiatives coming through as well tomorrow,” he added.

Provided that the IOC finalizes the deal, it would mark the first time the two National Olympic Committees would be competing together in a single team.

Some have questioned the fine print of the agreement announced by the two Koreas, saying it gives the combined hockey squad a far larger roster than any other national team.

Asked how the IOC planned to maintain the integrity of the sport, Adams said: “People would say that these are exceptional circumstances, and we need exceptional measures.”

“This is about the Olympic spirit,” Adams added. “And the Olympic spirit is about nations competing, athletes competing, and we will do our best make sure that it sends a signal that sport can improve the world.”

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Julia Mancuso skis final race dressed as Wonder Woman (video)

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Julia Mancuso bid farewell like only she could — with a tiara, cape and Wonder Woman suit.

The most decorated female U.S. Olympic skier with four medals announced Friday morning that today’s World Cup downhill in Cortina d’Ampezzo would be the last race of her career.

More on Mancuso’s retirement, career and immediate future here.

She raced Friday as her nickname — “Super Jules” — and coasted to the bottom 18 seconds slower than winner Sofia Goggia.

Afterward, U.S. Ski Team members sprayed her with champagne and lifted her up in the finish corral.

Mancuso chose an appropriate venue for her last race.

She notched her first World Cup podium in Cortina in January 2006, then won the Olympic giant slalom in Sestriere, Italy, four weeks later.

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