U.S. freestyle skier Jaelin Kauf executed a fast and aggressive super-final Sunday to capture silver in women's moguls at the 2022 Winter Olympics, scoring three points off a dominant title-winning performance from Australian Jakara Anthony.
Kauf attacked the course in her final run, clocking 26.37 with a big backflip mute grab on the top jump to score an 80.28 and earn Team USA its second medal of the Games, following snowboarder Julia Marino's silver in slopestyle. It's also the first women's moguls medal since Hannah Kearney's bronze in 2014. Kearney, who also won 2010 gold in Vancouver, was on the call for NBC Olympics during the finals and Kauf's runs.
"Oh my god, I'm just so happy right now. I honestly can't believe it … I put it out there tonight and I'm so happy," Kauf said. "I just tried to have so much fun and just keep my heart out at every run. I know that sounds so cheesy, but I wanted to leave it all out there and do everything that I could to make it on the podium tonight."
Anthony was in charge throughout the competition, scoring more than 81 points in all four of her runs at the Games. The 2019 world runner-up topped the first qualifying round Thursday with an 83.75, then won all three final rounds Sunday with 81.91, 81.29 and 83.09. Her gold is Australia's first medal of any color in women's moguls.
"It's a real mental game to let yourself do what you are capable of, and I really feel I was able to achieve that, which is something really special and something I've been working really hard to be able to do," Anthony said. "It was pretty tough to try not to get too far ahead of yourself. You have to constantly bring yourself back to the moment and just try to take things one step at a time, which is easier said than done."
In third was ROC's Anastasia Smirnova, 19, duplicating her bronze-medal result from the 2021 World Championships. Defending gold medalist Perrine Laffont of France threw a backflip Japan grab and cork 720 on her super-final run but it wasn't enough to reclaim the crown.
Kauf's teammates Olivia Giaccio, Hannah Soar and Kai Owens joined her in the finals. All four advanced out of Final 1 as top-12 finishers. In Final 2, Kauf and Giaccio took second and sixth to advance. Soar just missed the top-six cutoff in seventh and Owens got caught up right before the bottom jump for 10th.
Giaccio finished sixth overall. Her super-final run included a big back full on the top jump, but the landing was heavy on her right foot and she didn't ski fast in the following middle section. In January, she made history by becoming the first woman to land a cork 1080 in competition.
Kauf finished seventh in her Olympic debut at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics after entering as the world No. 1. This time around she was barely in the top 20, with just one top-10 result on the season: a seventh-place finish at a Dec. 11 World Cup competition in Idre Fjall, Sweden.
Both of the Wyoming native's parents, Patti and Scott, were professional moguls skiers on the Pro Mogul Tour. Patti won three X Games bronze medals in ski cross during the last '90s and early '00s. At 25, Kauf's the veteran of the U.S. Olympic women's moguls squad; Soar is 22, Giaccio 21 and Owens 17.