Park City aerialist Ashley Caldwell unable to defend world champs gold |

Park City aerialist Ashley Caldwell unable to defend world champs gold

Ben Ramsey/Park Record
USA's Ashley Caldwell participates in the FIS World Championship's women's freestyle aerials final at Deer Valley Resort Wednesday evening, February 6, 2019. Caldwell placed fifth among the women. (Tanzi Propst/Park Record)
Tanzi Propst/Park Record

DEER VALLEY RESORT, Utah — Only two women performed triple flips in the aerials World Championship superfinals at Deer Valley Resort on Wednesday. One was Aliaksandra Ramanouskaya, the Belarusian gold medalist. The other was Parkite Ashley Caldwell.

Caldwell, who finished two spots off the podium, might have been able to land a double flip cleanly enough to impress the judges and earn a second straight World Championship gold — but that was never her plan.

“Sometimes, I really want to do that, because I’m just not prepared,” she said of performing an easier trick in order to win. “But at the end of the day, I always end up off the triple, I can’t back down.”

To Caldwell, who is known as a pioneer of triple flips in women’s aerials, a double would have been a let down for her fans.

“Being reigning world champion really made me want to show the crowd that I was going to do my best, and throw as hard as I could,” she said.

That meant living up to her legacy, even if she didn’t feel up to it.

She said going into the competition, the primary thought that came into her mind was that she was unprepared.

Caldwell underwent shoulder surgery last spring after a fall during the Olympics in Pyeongchang, and didn’t train over the summer while it healed. To make matters worse, heavy snowfall limited training on the Deer Valley run. She said her training deficit extended to the week, the season and the year.

“I was thinking that I hadn’t had enough training to do these tricks this time around,” she said. “But at the same time, I have been doing triples for a long time, so I kind of keep that confidence going despite having some really adverse weather this week that made training really challenging.”

The triple flips her fans saw at Deer Valley were the first she had performed since the Olympics.

“I had a big push, because it’s Deer Valley and because it’s World Championships in our backyard, and I had to push,” she said.

She had to push again in the event itself, throwing her full, full, full for her last run. At the end of the day, she said it’s her decision whether to perform the trick or not.

“Even if it’s my coaches pushing me, they know that’s what I want,” she said. “This sport is scary and tough, so you need people around you who are going to be supportive when you aren’t necessarily feeling that support (from) yourself.”

Caldwell was the second athlete to compete in the six-person superfinals. When she saw Ramanouskaya stick a back lay, full, full, Caldwell ran into the finish area and hugged her.

“I was way more excited for her than I was bummed for myself,” she said of her 22-year-old challenger. “She’s been crushing, so to see another girl doing big triples – there are always other girls doing triples — but she has been working really hard and she did awesome jumps today.”

Ramanouskaya scored a 113.18, followed by Liubov Nikitina of Russia and Xu Mengtao – last year’s winner at the World Cup Deer Valley hosted – who both scored 89.88 also. The tie was broken by the highest score in a previous round.

Even though Caldwell didn’t medal, she said she was proud of her performance.

“I have always wanted to show that girls can go out there and do big tricks,” she said. “I’m really proud to have stayed true to that, even in these adverse conditions.”