Ashley Caldwell is the only freestyle aerial skier to land The Daddy

Published January 30, 2018

COLLAGE BY MAXWELL N. BURNSTEIN.

In the lead up to the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang on February 8, 2018, we will be introducing 10 young athletes who will be stealing America’s hearts and standing on the podium.

Freestyle aerial skier Ashley Caldwell exceeds limits: she’s the only woman to ever land “The Daddy,” a quadruple-twisting backflip—competing in a league of her own making at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Caldwell’s desire to “jump like the boys” saw her push the sport forward for women by breaking from double flips into triples as the new competitive standard. “It’s liberating!” she says of her high-flying, aerial jumps that use momentum to accelerate up to six meters in the air. Judged on her ability to perform technical stunts and make a clean landing, the reigning 2017 World Champion takes more from a loss than a victory, using every crash as a learning opportunity.

Caldwell is prepared to be unprepared coming into her third Olympics with the knowledge that, “they’re going to be dramatically different than the games I’ve been to.” Each Olympic games is its own beast; Caldwell looks to depart from her 10th place position at Vancouver (2010) and Sochi (2014) in PyeongChang by being “ready for anything that comes at me.”

I overcome the fear of each jump by…

Dancing and singing.

My pre-game playlist currently sounds like…

Alternative rock. Imagine Dragons, Milky Chance, X Ambassadors, and the occasional Bruno Mars or Taylor Swift.

Chasing the adrenaline is…

The moment I live for. That moment when all the adrenaline pumps in is the moment I’m most excited for—that drives my passion.

For those split seconds I’m in the air…

I’m free of anything else. The only thing that matters when I’m in the air is what I’m doing in the air. I rid myself of any stress, everything in the world. All that maters is trying to land on my feet and complete a nice jump. It’s liberating.

My competitive advantage is…

The fear drives me.

I use fear to…

Not crash and get injured or hurt—they’re different things. Every time I crash I have an opportunity to overcome something, the adversity. It’s in those moments I find that I can prove to myself my own strengths.

The hardest moment I’ve faced…

Was falling on my first finals jump in Sochi and getting 10th.

Taking home gold at World Champions 2017 was…

“Oh my gosh, I just landed that. Oh my gosh, I just won worlds. Oh my gosh, I can’t believe my coaches let me do that.” I was thrilled by the idea that I had just become the first women to ever land the trick “The Daddy.”

I wanted to do this trick because…

For a long time I said I wanted to jump like the boys, now I don’t think it matters if you’re a girl or a boy, I want to go out their and do the biggest tricks I can do, that I am technically capable of. I just want to push myself and have no standard.

When I started this sport…

The first thing I noticed was all the guys do triples, and almost all the girls do doubles. For the first couple of years, I was better then the guys my age, so if I stayed on the same path and push myself the same way the boys do, I should be able to do the same tricks.

I’ve been an athlete…

My whole life. I started skiing at three, wanted to be an Olympian at five, and I switched sports at 13 (to aerial skiing) to make that Olympic dream come true.

This year the competitors have been…

Fierce. People aren’t going to make mistakes this year. Everyone is out there throwing big tricks right away and I see a lot more girls coming out and trying to do triples. The girls all have this fire because of the Olympics.

The changes I’ve made for these games…

I have the highest expectation for myself. I am not going to leave anything on the table. I am ready for anything that comes at me. To go full force.

The competition at the game will be…

Crushed by me. Can you put a smiley face next to that?

My third Olympics will be…

My most passionate. I have the most invested emotionally and physically in this Olympics. You put more hours in the gym, more jumps, more crashes, more everything. It’s the passion.

My Olympic dream is…

To get a gold medal. Duh. But really, to show that I can do tricks as big as the guys can do, at the same competitive level.

 

LEARN MORE AT TEAMUSA.ORG. THE WINTER OLYMPICS BEGIN LIVE ON FEBRUARY 8, 2018. THE PARALYMPICS START ON MARCH 9, 2018.