ZHANGJIAKOU, China (AP) — At the Tetonia Club in Alta, Wyoming, they clung to one simple phrase as the bedlam gained steam while their daughter, sister and friend, Jaelin Kauf, edged closer and closer to the Olympic silver medal: “Deliver the love.”
Kauf delivered the love. A spot on the podium was a fitting reward to go with it.
Half a world away from Alta, the 25-year-old Kauf finished second Sunday in freestyle moguls, an event her family has set the standard in over decades. Kauf’s mom, Patti, and her dad, Scott, are multiple-time champions in the freestyle discipline from back in the ’80s and ’90s. Patti also won three Winter X Games titles in skicross.
They gathered at Scott’s bar with around 100 of their closest friends to watch Jaelin make a trip down the hill that will force a bit of rearranging in the family trophy case. The action started at 4:30 a.m. in Wyoming.
“She had the biggest smile on top of the course and everyone’s like ‘She’s got it,’” Patti said. “She smiled every run. Her motto was to go out and deliver the love, which is to remind her about her love of the sport. And that’s what she did. And I couldn’t be more proud.”
It wasn’t always so easy to keep things that simple.
Kauf spent time as the top-ranked skier in the world and went into the Pyeongchang Games among the favorites to win a medal. But moguls is one of the most fickle events on snow. She finished seventh there. She bashed into a tree and suffered a back injury at the beginning of last year. All of that made her wonder if keeping on in this sport was really worth it.
That’s how “Deliver the love” became the catchiest phrase in Alta.
“I got into the sport because I love it, and that’s why I’m still competing in it,” Kauf said. “Every time I push out the start gate for training or competition, I just want to deliver the love and do it without reason.”
Her parents signed onto that outlook quickly.
“It wasn’t about the medals,” Patti said. “It wasn’t about anything else but just going out there and having her best run every day.”
On the night — or make that, the morning — of her Olympic triumph, the Kaufs gave a lot of credit to big brother Skyler.
“He kept it together tonight when everyone was losing it,” Patti said.
There was a short time when Kauf actually held the lead in the big final and a gold medal looked within reach. Australia’s Jakara Anthony ended up taking the top spot, but that had nothing to do with why the folks at the Tetonia were losing it.
“It was because our daughter and sister is skiing in the — I don’t want to swear — but skiing in the Olympics,” Scott Kauf said. “And laying down run after run after run. It’s like, how do you not lose it? You worked your whole life for that.”