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Ski and Snowboard Club Vail’s Tess Johnson landed an individual moguls World Cup podium Friday morning in France by placing third at the Alpe d’Huez stop. Her score of 76.64 trailed Japan’s Anri Kawamura (77.21) and Australia’s Jakara Anthony (85.97).
“I’m over the moon right now, it’s been three years since my last singles podium, and it’s just been a journey and a half to get back here,” Johnson told U.S. Ski and Snowboard’s Lara Carlton. “I was proud to throw cork on my top air and my signature venom on the bottom. To do that and land on the podium is a dream come true.”
The youngest athlete ever to be named to the U.S. Ski and Snowboard National Team when she joined at 14 in 2016, Johnson appears to be building momentum as a potentially second Olympic nomination approaches.
The last individual moguls podium for the 21-year old Olympian came on Jan. 18, 2019, when she was third in Lake Placid, New York. She finished third in a dual moguls event earlier this year and has one dual moguls win on her resume but is still searching for her first individual World Cup victory. Johnson has steadily worked to increase her degree of difficulty throughout that time, but the recent gap without a podium has challenged her strength.
“I’m just proud that I stuck with this sport in times of feeling like a failure; that I stuck with doing the cork,” she told Carlton. “Here I am having completed a cork 7 on top air, in one of the most challenging top airs. I’m proud of my coaches for believing in me.”
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Her coaches believe Johnson is rounding into form at just the right time, too.
“You could see her build her confidence and determination each run, focusing on what she can control,” said Matt Gnoza, the head moguls coach, to U.S. Ski and Snowboard after the event. “Her finals run bottom venom grab was so dynamic. It had nice lift and peeled open. She really tweaks it, which the judges really respond to. The way Tess skied that middle section into the bottom air, she’s moving in a really great direction.”
Even though the bluebird conditions provided a pleasant backdrop, the course itself was steep and demanding.
“This course has been pretty challenging all week,” Johnson said.
“The top air and top air exit in particular have been a massive challenge. I just went out there and stuck with my cork through some tough training, focused on my cues all week long, and it really paid.”
17-year old Kai Owens, another prodigious local moguls star, was seventh (75.54), while fellow American Hannah Soar also placed in the top 10, earning the eighth-place position (75.54). Another SSCV alumna, Dylan Walczyk, finished 24th in the men’s competition.
The action continues tomorrow with dual moguls, starting at 6 a.m. MST (streaming on Peacock). Owens and Johnson have qualified for Saturday’s round of 16, and Johnson is hungry for more.
“[This podium] definitely makes me motivated,” Johnson told Carlton. “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t pretty tired. But I’m psyched for tomorrow, I’ve already qualified and am excited to ski.”
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