Arriving on bikes, on foot and even on horseback, a crowd of a couple hundred Teton Valley residents and supporters gathered at the Driggs City Plaza last Friday to welcome home Olympian Jaelin Kauf, who grew up in Alta and won silver for the U.S. in the women’s moguls competition at the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing.
The ceremony for Kauf started with a driving parade past the three schools in Driggs. Dozens of students also joined for the ceremony in the city center, along with both longtime local residents and newcomers alike.
“I drove the school bus for Alta for nine years. My first year driving the bus, Jaelin was in kindergarten,” said a woman named Vancie, who stood out among the crowd seated on a brown horse. “That’s where she learned about speed. Because she was never at the bus stop when I got there—she had to run to catch the bus!”
Part of the crowd gathered here at the Driggs City Plaza to welcome home Jaelin Kauf (@JaeBird96), of Alta, Wyoming—silver medalist in the women’s moguls at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing 🥈⛷@891KHOL pic.twitter.com/g8UYbKfSLU
— Kyle S. Mackie (@kylemackieradio) April 8, 2022
“We just moved to the area last September,” said another man in the crowd named Don Bayne, who attended the ceremony with his wife and grandson. “It’s just awesome, the community and the things that they do and the way that they bond together… [we] just wanted to be here to experience it.”
Speaking to KHOL in an interview Friday morning, Kauf also addressed the strength of support she’s gotten from the Teton Valley community over the years and how growing up in the Tetons has shaped who she is today.
“Growing up here in Teton Valley and at Grand Targhee [Resort], that’s what created my love for being in the mountains, for being outdoors and for skiing,” she said. “I’ve made a career out of competing, but at the root of it all is, like, that love and passion for just being out there, just being on the snow. And that comes from this place, from growing up here.”
KHOL also chatted with Kauf about her experience in the so-called “COVID bubble” at the Olympics, how she cares for her mental health while competing on the world stage and her advice for young women and girls inspired to follow in her footsteps.
“On the ski team here, there was one other girl that I skied with here. But mostly growing up, it was just me skiing with my brother and all the guys,” Kauf said. “So, I was pretty lucky to be able to have such a strong female role model to look up to [in my mom, former pro skier and moguls champion Patti Kauf].”
“My message there would be: Do it your own way and set your own path. You don’t have to listen to what anyone else is saying. And whatever it is you love, go out and do it as hard as you can.”
Listen to KHOL’s full interview with Olympian Jaelin Kauf above or as a bonus episode of our weekly podcast Jackson Unpacked out on Thursday, April 14.