Ashley Caldwell lands on podium
After crashing while attempting a triple flip during Thursday afternoon’s aerial finals at the Deer Valley Freestyle World Cup, it wouldn’t have been surprising to see American Ashley Caldwell tone her jumps down Friday night.
Those who know her understand that was never an option, though. Caldwell again had the highest degree of difficulty on her jumps Friday, but this time the results were different, as she had clean enough landings to earn a bronze medal — her ninth-career podium finish.
"I don’t like backing down," she said. "I like doing triple backflips. It can be scary and it can be challenging, but I love the reward and I love the excitement. I like challenging myself and the sport."
Caldwell was happy with her jump — a full-full-full — during the superfinal (featuring the final six jumpers), but said a less-than-ideal landing cost her the gold medal.
"The last jump was sweet," she said. "I kind of ripped into it, which means I was flipping pretty fast. I had to stretch really hard in the second flip and just barely got my feet under me. I had a pretty deep landing, which cost me the win."
China’s Xin Zhang won the competition, with Australian Danielle Scott taking silver. Both of them used doubles in the superfinal.
For Caldwell, the plan is to continue attempting triples until she can land them with consistency. Then, she said, the podium results will follow in bunches.
"I’m trying to increase my consistency doing triples to decrease the risk and increase the reward," she said. "The more consistent I am, the more likely it’ll be that I’ll land on the podium. I like crashing, but I think I like getting on the podium a little bit more than that, so it’s nice that I got to crash one day and got on the podium the other day."
Helping Caldwell before each jump was longtime U.S. aerialist Emily Cook. Caldwell said she loves having Cook coaching her before she takes off down the in-run.
"Before, when we were competing against each other, I’m a little bit more relaxed than she is and she’s kind of serious," Caldwell said. "Now, she’s like as relaxed or even more relaxed and it’s kind of nice that our friendship and teammate-ship turned into something successful on the hill."
For Scott, who finished second, doing well at Park City was exciting. Though she’s from Australia, she said she’s quite familiar with the Park City area.
"This is my second home," she said. "We spend the summers here at the Utah Olympic Park and it’s always nice coming here because the atmosphere is just incredible."
The Deer Valley World Cup was a big event for the Australians, who decided to make it their biggest competition of the year.
"This is actually our benchmark event with the Australian Institute, so it was actually a really good day at the office for me," Scott laughed. "We have an event where it’s performance-on-demand every year and they chose this event this year because there wasn’t a World Championships or an Olympics, so there wasn’t a major event. [Doing well at Deer Valley] gets us a little higher up in the rankings down in Australia."
On the men’s side, Alex Bowen led all Americans with a sixth-place finish. Russia’s Petr Medulich won gold, with Oleksandr Abramenko of the Ukraine in second and Naoya Tabara of Japan in third.
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Facing a region opponent early on was not ideal for Park City head coach Micaela Carriel, especially considering her girls had just moved up to 5A Region 8 after spending last season in 4A.