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Caldwell 'stoked' about aerial finals

It's been a good Olympics for Ashley Caldwell of Hamilton, Va.

She marched in Opening Ceremonies. She met her hero, Shaun White, and together they met Vice-President Biden. And in just her fourth major international competition, she qualified for Wednesday night's finals in freestyle aerials.

Not bad for a 16-year-old.

Caldwell, the youngest Olympian on the U.S. team, qualified for the 12th and final position in the finals, which begin at 10:30 p.m. ET. She made it by just 1.08 points -- but she made it. Her result was particularly impressive since she fell on the landing on the first of two qualifying jumps.

In aerials, competitors ski down a short ramp and perform flips and twists. They are judged on air, form and landing, and scores are calculated based on the degree of difficulty of their tricks. Caldwell, who has competed in just three World Cup events -- with three top 15 finishes -- has DDs of 3.150 and 3.525, not the lowest in the field, or the highest.


"After my first jump and the fall at the end, I thought that because of my degree of difficulty that the other girls would push me out no matter how good of a full-full I did," Caldwell said in an e-mail this week. "I remembered that my coach, Dmitriy [Kavunov], told me about his first Olympics, he was coaching an athlete and they messed up a jump very badly, he told them to just go up and nail the second jump.

"She initially thought she was out of the finals, too, but Dmitriy told her she was fine and so she went up did a nice jump and made finals in 12th position just like me. So going into the second jump I thought of that and it turns out that I was in the same situation and got the same result. Lina Cheryasova [of Uzbekistan], the athlete, went on to finals and won gold. So, at the top of the hill before my second jump I thought of that and did a nice jump to make it into finals and I'm totally stoked."

She'll do the same two jumps in the finals -- as a relative newcomer, she doesn't yet have a deep enough bag of tricks to allow her to pull out harder moves for the finals.

"Some athletes don't do their hardest tricks in qualifications because less degree of difficulty will suffice," she wrote. "For me, I'm at the low end of the totem pole so I've only got my two tricks and they are basically the minimum that a jumper can do to make finals."

Caldwell's teammates Emily Cook and Lacy Schnoor qualified fifth and sixth, respectively. Alla Tsuper of Belarus had the top score in qualifying.

By Tracee Hamilton  |  February 24, 2010; 7:56 AM ET
Categories:  Freestyle Skiing  
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