Ashley Caldwell wins World Cup aerials title |

Ashley Caldwell wins World Cup aerials title

U.S. aerialist Ashley Caldwell eyes the landing as she flips through the air during a competition at Deer Valley on Feb. 4.

The 2015-16 season was a strange one for the U.S. aerials team. Following a pair of season-opening events in Beijing in mid-December, the athletes didn’t compete again until the first weekend of February at Deer Valley thanks to a cancellation of the Lake Placid, New York contest.

From there, the jumpers went straight to Moscow and then to Minsk, Belarus. Minsk wasn’t supposed to be the last event of the season but, due to a lack of snow in Sierra Nevada, Spain, it served as the de facto championship.

Going into the Minsk competition, Team USA’s Ashley Caldwell knew she had a real shot at the season title. As the leader in the standings, even if second-place Danielle Scott of Australia won, Caldwell only needed to place seventh to claim her first-career crystal globe.

Instead of settling for a seventh-place finish, Caldwell roared into the final round of six and stomped a full-full-full to win a gold medal and clinch the crystal globe.

As one of only a few women on the tour to attempt triple flips, Caldwell said she wanted to work on being more consistent going into this season. She said she was happy to have finished the season with two victories and four podiums.

"I was ecstatic," she said. "I haven’t always been the most consistent jumper — I’ve had my ups and downs. Even if it was a short season, [winning the overall title] was a huge goal of mine. I’m glad I was able to come through."

Caldwell said she thought her best events were actually the first two in Beijing, when she finished first and second in the two competitions.

"I struggled in January to train a lot," she said. "I was sick for a little bit and had a shin injury, so I didn’t train a lot before Deer Valley. I kind of rushed back to do the jumps I wanted to do."

Beijing was extra sweet for Caldwell because she was able to land triples despite an abbreviated summer training schedule.

"I hadn’t trained all summer long and had to come out and get up to triples and do it quick," she said. "The whole season was very, very rushed, but getting two wins and four podiums [for the season] was very exciting and more than I expected."

Though Caldwell missed the podium in the first of two competitions at Deer Valley earlier this month, she did manage to finish third in the second event. Still, she said, she wishes she could have put on more of a show for the home-country crowd.

"Deer Valley was tough for me," she said. "I’ve always loved that event. It felt like there was a lot of pressure coming off two podiums in China and winning [at Deer Valley] last year. Just making it through that event was exciting for me. I was kind of nervous about losing the yellow bib, but I did manage to keep it through that event. That pushed me to try a little harder in Moscow and Minsk."

Caldwell would have liked to compete in Spain, but she said that’s part of the uncertainty of winter sports.

"None of us have been to Sierra Nevada for competition and it was a test event for next year [for World Championships] so we lost that," she said. "Having gone to that site would have been a huge advantage, but it’s a winter sport, so the weather affects it and you have to deal with that. Everyone is bummed but there’s not much you can do about it."

With a World Cup overall title under her belt, Caldwell said she now has even more confidence in her jumping ability. Plus, she added, imagine what she can do if she stays healthy this summer.

"The overall title is a huge success for me," she said. "It’s one of the highlights of your career — you definitely want that one. That said, I’m still trying really hard to put myself in a good position for World Championships and the Olympics [in 2018]. Hopefully with a full season of water ramp training, I can improve even more this offseason."

For now, though, Caldwell is looking forward to some time off and a relaxing spring before the summer training schedule begins.

"I’m hoping to do some traveling," she said. "We’ll go back [to the U.S.] for Nationals and I’ll do some spring skiing with my sister and maybe some sailing with my boyfriend and his family. I missed out on water ramp season last year and that’s some of my favorite training. I had some big goals last summer and didn’t even get close to accomplishing them. I moved those goals to this summer, so we’ll see what happens."

In addition to Caldwell’s overall title, Team USA’s Morgan Northrop won the Rookie of the Year award and the U.S. squad earned the Nation’s Cup for the second consecutive year.

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