PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) – As a kid, Jaelin Kauf traveled the world, cheering on her mom and dad while they skied over moguls and collected trophies and titles along the way.
Now, ma and pa are returning the favor – following Jaelin all the way to the Olympics, where she might just add a gold medal to the family’s impressive stash of prizes.
Kauf’s mother, Patti, won two titles on the World Pro Moguls Tour and her dad, Scott, won five. Jaelin and her older brother, Skyler, were around for most of it – unofficial mascots on what Patti called a family-oriented “traveling rodeo” of sorts.
“There are a lot of people in the moguls community who’ve known her for her whole life,” Patti Kauf said. “To see her at this level, it’s not just great for Scott and I, it’s great for a whole lot of people who watched her grow up.”
The 21-year-old Wyoming native entered the Olympics ranked first, on the strength of two World Cup victories and two seconds in the leadup to the Pyeongchang Games. She’ll go for gold in the Olympic final Saturday.
It would be the greatest prize the Kauf family has ever won, which is saying something.
After her moguls career, Patti Kauf transitioned into skicross, where she added three Winter X Games bronze medals to what she had already won.
Though her parents set the tone, it was Jaelin’s love of chasing after her brother that ultimately got her hooked on moguls.
“Pretty much anything I was doing, she wanted to do,” Skyler told the Jackson Hole News and Guide in a recent interview . “I forced her to play football with me in the hallways. We were 8 years old playing one-on-one football, Oklahoma drill. She was always so much smaller than me. Props to her for being a trooper.”
While Skyler toughened her up, Jaelin says her mom’s accomplishments showed her that anything is possible.
“She’s always been the coolest person,” Kauf said. “She was old … ish, at 40. She went to the X Games and people weren’t competing at 40 in skicross and moguls. But she did it. It pushed the limits and it showed me and my brother that we could do that, too.”
Though she grew up watching her parents compete, Jaelin didn’t really see how big her future might be until they moved from Wyoming to Steamboat Springs, Colorado, where training possibilities and Olympic dreams were much more abundant. (The city claims that about one out of every 140 residents in the town of 12,000 is an Olympian.)
“I saw all the skiers who had the flags hanging out in their houses all over town,” Jaelin said. “That’s when I thought, ‘I can definitely do this. Look at these guys.'”
Though both her parents worked as coaches once their competitive days were over, the Kaufs have taken the opposite tact as, say, Eileen Shiffrin, who coaches her daughter, Mikaela, on the Alpine course.
“I want to be a great cheerleader, bake cookies, cheer her on and give her hugs,” Patti Kauf said. “I don’t want to be her coach, her technician or her adviser. I just want to be her mom.”
So far, the plan is working, and the family’s impressive trophy case has a chance to grow.
“Jaelin grew up loving the sport of skiing,” Patti said. “As parents, we always wanted our kids to do what they loved to do. And if they were going to do something, we wanted them to do it well.”