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Despite two World Cup moguls podiums, Johnson denied spot on Olympic team

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January 18, 2022, 4:35 pm

Vail’s Tess Johnson posted on her Facebook page on Tuesday that, despite ranking as the second American on the current World Cup moguls tour and registering two third-place finishes thus far on the circuit, she was denied a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team for the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics.

Kai Owens of Vail did make it onto the team for Beijing.

The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team on Wednesday did not provide a comment on the qualification criteria controversy that resulted in Johnson not making the Olympic squad.

Johnson was an Olympian at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games in South Korea, finishing 12th. Here’s her Facebook post from Tuesday:

Tess Johnson

I’m heartbroken to say that I have not been chosen to go to the 2022 Olympics.

I’m going to be fully transparent here: I’m skiing and competing the best I ever have. I am currently ranked 5th overall on the World Cup Tour (2nd American), and I have 2 bronze medals from this year’s Olympic qualifiers (more podiums than any other skier nominated to the team, and the same amount as the entire team, men and women, combined). Despite these results, I did not meet objective criteria for the Games, therefore my hope remained with the fourth and final spot which was a discretionary spot. Yet, despite my results again, the committee selected by the US Ski Team to oversee discretionary cases decided that they were not good enough.

It’s been hard to receive dozens of messages over the past 2 weeks congratulating me on making the Olympics. I didn’t know how to respond as I hadn’t yet qualified, and I had faith that I would be able to report official good news this week, but alas.

I’m grateful to the US Ski Team for funding me with the opportunities to chase my dreams and achieve what I have so far, but I’m simultaneously crushed by their decision. This wound will take time to heal. Part of me still can’t believe this is happening, and I’m doing everything I can to make sure no athlete is made to feel this way again. However, anyone who knows me knows that I will be cheering on my teammates who made the team, as well as all of Team USA.

And make no mistake, I’m not going anywhere. This only fuels my hunger for more at the World Cups following the Games, and I will never stop believing in myself. I’m proud to say I fought my hardest, I performed, and I will continue to do so. I’m grateful to everyone who has supported me relentlessly throughout this painstaking process.

I guess I will just always wonder what I could have shown the world in China…

Real Vail Editor’s note: This post has been updated to reflect Kai Owens of Vail making the Olympic team, the lack of comment on Johnson by the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team, and to include the press release from the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team on the naming of the Olympic moguls team (see below letter). The following letter was sent out on Tuesday and posted here Wednesday morning:

1/18/22

To Whom It May Concern:

This letter is in regards to, and in protest of the Olympic Selection Process that has been used to name the women’s 2022 Beijing US Olympic Freestyle Mogul team. Additionally, those on the committee that created the selection criteria were clearly negligent in their efforts to accurately and fairly determine the Olympic team. Specifically, Matt Gnoza and Jeremy Forster put in place selection procedures that rely heavily on the Mogul FIS Points list (Objective Criteria #1, Discretionary criteria, and Remaining Team Nomination Selection).

The FIS Point list is not applicable or accurate in this situation, as 1., FIS Point Rankings were designed to set international quotas and minimum standards, not for national team selection, 2., the FIS Point Rankings and COVID holds include points from results that are over 2 years old and not relevant to current competition, and 3., the Mogul FIS Rankings include Dual Mogul results, not even an Olympic discipline. Heavy reliance on the FIS Point standings has resulted in naming 2 athletes who have not produced any podiums in the 7 Qualifying Events this season. This left only 2 spots to be allocated among 3 other US athletes who did earn podiums at the 2022 World Cup Qualifying Events.  In the end, as a direct result of relying on the FIS Point Standings, 3 of the 4 athletes named to the 2022 US Olympic Team have been designated by virtue of Dual Moguls results, some from more than 2 years ago. Only one athlete was named to the 2022 Olympic Team on the basis of results from the current year and results from World Cup Mogul Events.

This led to one athlete, Tess Johnson, being left off the team despite 2 podiums in Qualifying events, ranking 5th in the world on the 2022 Mogul World Cup standings, 4th in the world on the FIS Olympic Winter Games 2022 Allocation List (highest ranked US athlete), and the 2nd highest World Cup ranking of all the US women. 

Tess has shown her ability to medal in World Cup events and deserves a spot on the 2022 Olympic Team. The only reason she was not awarded this spot was because of the incompetence of our National Governing Body and Olympic Criteria Selection committee (Matt Gnoza and Jeremy Forster). 

The US women’s mogul team is arguably one of the strongest national ski teams in the world, with 4 US women in the top 10 of the 2022 World Cup rankings, but our strongest squad is not being sent to the Olympics. 

We, the undersigned, as stakeholders in the US mogul skiing community, demand the resignation of those responsible for this fatally flawed system that has harmed multiple athletes, as well as our medal chances at the Olympic games. Additionally, we demand that the US Olympic Team be renamed prior to the Games to include the top 4 best performing US athletes in current World Cup competition, as they are ranked in the 2022 Mogul World Cup Standings, or the FIS Olympic Winter Games 2022 Allocation List.

Sincerely,

John Dowling

Lara Dowling

John Grigsby

Tegan Large

Brian Large

Stephanie Koller

Jay Lucas

Nash Lucas

Halsey Lucas

Brad Kreuz

John Kust

Larry Smith

Dena Soulakis

Lance Field

Carol Johnson

Jennifer Berger

Karl Berger

Natalie Berger

Maggie Berger

Lucas Berger

Hope Nohejl

Paula Haskins

Kerry Skidmore

Nessa Dziemian

Sylvan Ellefson

Mallory Cleveland

Tye Stockton

Brielle Stockton

Jim Keenan

Philippe Marquis

Jarret Rubis

Kristen Rubis

Isabella Rubis

Harrison Rubis

Gabbi Fisher

Lisa Fisher 

Paul Fisher

Becky Miles

Hannah Miles

Caroline Claire

Kelli Bailey

Carlos a Vasquez 

Avital Carroll 

Chuck Martin

Charlie Martin

Kristen Martin

Jack Skidmore

Mallory Skidmore

Maggie Skidmore

John Homans

Hans Gardner

Stephen Cass

Erin Coyne 

McKenna Booth

Cristina Morelli

Lanie Pidwell

Nora Schied 

Whitney Henceroth 

Michael Nathan 

Lane Stoltzner

John Marnin

Toby Barclay

Alyssa Lawson

Deborah Shimko

Eitan Shimko

Zev Shimko

Kay Kirkland

Jeff Andringa

Pam Andringa

Heidi Andringa

Kim Dilling

Dorothy Tully

Scott Tully

Katie Barclay

Tori Ware 

Debbie Ware 

Rob Ware

Karen Marley

David Marley

David Lawson 

Cynthia Meyers

Mylo Ornowski

Bobby Carroll

Laura Lieff

Brian Fleming

Julia Wallace 

Craig Hughes

Sarah Hughes

Liz Duxbury

Paul Duxbury

Max Duxbury

Jacob Pastor

Paul Miles

Kelly Lawson

Claude Goldberg

PJ Cass

Thomas Cass

Jillian Vogtli

Liz Kremzier

Scott Weiler

Michelle Weiler

Here’s the press release from USSA, issued on Friday:

U.S. Ski & Snowboard announced today its nominations for the U.S. Olympic Freestyle Team that will represent Team USA at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022. Nominations are to be confirmed by the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee when it formally announces the U.S. Olympic Team.

The 15 member U.S. Olympic Freestyle Team boasts a deep roster of talented athletes. First-time Olympian aerialists Kaila Kuhn, Chris Lillis, Megan Nick, Justin Schoenefeld and Winter Vinecki will look to make their mark on aerial skiing history. Ashley Caldwell will make her fourth Games appearance, and Eric Loughran will appear in his second. 

Six moguls athletes will compete in their first Games: Olivia Giaccio, Kai Owens, Hannah Soar, Nick Page, Cole McDonald and Dylan Walczyk. Jaelin Kauf will ski in her second Olympics and Brad Wilson in his third. 

Freestyle’s action-packed schedule kicks off before the Opening Ceremony with the first qualifying round for moguls on February 3. The finals for men’s moguls are February 5, with the women’s finals on February 6. Mixed Team Aerials, which features a team of three athletes of mixed gender with individual scores combined for a total score over two final rounds, will make its Olympic debut on February 10. Women’s aerials qualifying is scheduled for February 13, and the finals are February 14. Men’s aerials qualifying takes place on February 15, with the finals scheduled for February 16.

2022 U.S. OLYMPIC FREESTYLE TEAM
(Name; hometown, birthday; club; past Olympics)

Aerials Team
Women

  • Ashley Caldwell, Ashburn, Virginia; 9/14/93; Elite Aerial Development Program (Olympics: 2010, 2014, 2018)
  • *Kaila Kuhn, Boyne City, Michigan; 4/8/03; Park City Ski & Snowboard
  • *Megan Nick, Shelbourne, Vermont; 7/9/96; Elite Aerial Development Program
  • *Winter Vinecki, Gaylord, Michigan;12/18/98; Park City Ski & Snowboard

Men

  • *Chris Lillis, Pittsford, New York; 10/4/98; Bristol Mountain Freestyle
  • Eric Loughran, Pelham, New Hampshire; 4/12/95; Loon Mountain Freestyle (Olympics: 2018)
  • *Justin Schoenefeld, Lawrenceburg, Indiana; 8/13/98; Perfect North Slopes

Moguls Team
Women

  • *Olivia Giaccio, Redding, Connecticut; 8/15/00; Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club
  • Jaelin Kauf, Alta, Wyoming; 9/26/96; Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club (Olympics: 2018)
  • *Kai Owens, Vail, Colorado; 8/16/04; Ski & Snowboard Club Vail
  • *Hannah Soar, Killington, Vermont; 6/4/99; Killington Mountain School

Men

  • *Cole McDonald, Park City, Utah; 3/6/03; Wasatch Freestyle
  • *Nick Page, Park City, Utah; 8/1/02; Wasatch Freestyle
  • *Dylan Walczyk, Rochester, New York; 6/25/93; Ski & Snowboard Club Vail
  • Brad Wilson, Butte, Montana; 6/5/92; Wasatch Freestyle (Olympics: 2014, 2018)

*Denotes first-time Olympian 

Watch Team USA compete on the networks of NBC throughout the Olympics, February 4-20, 2022. 

FOLLOW THE TEAM 

Instagram @usskiteam 

Facebook @usskiandsnowboard

TikTok @usskiandsnowboard

Twitter @usskiteam 

ATHLETE QUOTES:

Megan Nick
“I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity and all the people who have helped get me here because this wouldn’t have been possible without them.”

Winter Vinecki
“It has been years and years of sacrifices and setbacks. To finally reach the Olympics really is a dream come true. This accomplishment represents an incredible amount of determination and perseverance. It makes me proud and excited knowing I have fully dedicated myself to be among the best in the world at something I love. I just cannot wait to be standing on top of that hill for my Olympic competition jump.”

Chris Lillis
“I’m absolutely honored to represent the U.S. in the Beijing Olympics! It’s been a dream of mine since I was a kid and not only a dream of mine but one that I’ve shared with my entire family including my two brothers. Being able to complete that dream is not only a personal success from a lifetime of training, but also in a lot of ways me continuing a legacy in my family and my community in Rochester of representing my country at the highest level.”

Hannah Soar
“Getting to represent Team USA at the Olympics is a dream; just hearing the Olympic theme song on TV gives me chills! The Olympics have always been bigger than sport for me. I love that the true purpose is to bring the world together over the commonality of sport. I think that is what I am most excited about, I get to do my favorite thing, mogul skiing, all while getting to represent the USA at an event that truly brings the world together.”

Nick Page
“It’s pretty cool to look back to 2010 when I watched Bryon Wilson medal in Vancouver—to think at that point, I saw the Olympics as this shining star of somewhere I wanted to be but with no idea how to get there. Through the work with Wasatch Freestyle, the U.S. Ski Team and all the support from those around me, I found a way to make it happen, which is pretty special. I have to think the 2010 version of myself would be pretty excited knowing that this was coming down the road. I can’t wait to go to China and compete. Taking in the Olympic atmosphere will be amazing and I’m so excited for what will come in the next few weeks.”

COACH QUOTES

Matt Gnoza, U.S. Ski & Snowboard Head Moguls Coach
“The 2022 Olympic roster for moguls is stacked with an impressive lineup of Olympic veterans and new-to-the-Games talent. These athletes have put in the work and are excited and ready to make their mark in the sport. We’re heading into Beijing well-prepared and with a clear understanding of what we need to execute in order to be successful.”

Vladimir Lebedev, U.S. Ski & Snowboard Head Aerials Coach
“I am so proud of the work that the athletes nominated to this aerials Olympic team have put in for the last three years. Each athlete has been on a multi-year plan to develop their jump package for an ideal Olympic performance. They have each achieved success at the World Cup and World Championships level in both singles and the team event. We’re coming into Beijing with a highly competitive roster of athletes and I look forward to having them perform at their peak on the world’s highest sporting stage.”

4 Responses to Despite two World Cup moguls podiums, Johnson denied spot on Olympic team

  1. Henri D. Rivers III Reply

    January 19, 2022 at 3:34 am

    We love you and support your journey! Heal well, we are in your corner and support you.

  2. MM Reply

    January 19, 2022 at 8:06 am

    There are two sides to this story. The other one is local Kai Owens who got the 4th spot. She too had two third place finishes this year and she got the last spot because they had the same finishes this year but Kai had a higher FIS point total. Our family has been cheering on Tess for years we are so sad that it had to come down to this but I think your article, Tess’ Facebook post and the comments talking about how angry people are and how unfair it is doesn’t do any good and undermines the excitement that her teammate and fellow Vail Valley skier Kai Owens deserves.

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