Vail’s “Happy Knees” Keenan rules moguls age group at junior nationals

Vail skiing phenom Ava “Happy Knees” Keenan continues to shine nationally in competitive moguls.

Keenan, who was featured last fall in the annual Warren Miller ski film “Daymaker,” was the top female competitor for her age group at the U.S. junior national championships last week in Steamboat Springs.

Keenan, 12, was the top under-13 competitor in individual moguls and in dual moguls. In individual moguls, skiers compete one at a time. In dual moguls, they compete head-to-head in a knockout format. In duals she finished ahead of the under-15 (13 and 14 years old) skiers as well. She turns 13 in two weeks.

“It was a lot of fun,” said Keenan, who says her goal is to become the first Black Olympic champion in skiing. “All my friends from around the country that I rarely get to see were there, so that was a big plus. The competing part, that was probably the most relaxed that I’ve felt all season. I was just competing mostly against friends and people I know well. It was super fun, chill, but also competitive.”

Keenan’s nickname comes from the smiley face designs she wears on her knee pads. She and her father, Jim, moved from Denver to Vail last year so she can train fulltime with the local ski club, Ski and Snowboard Club Vail. Previously she only trained there on weekends.

“She did very, very well,” Jim Keenan said of junior nationals. “I’m happy and excited and tempered. She’s only 12. A lot can happen. She’s in a good place, but she’s got a lot of work to do and she knows it. And she’s excited to do it.”

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