An aerial skier from Ashburn, Virginia, has helped put Team USA’s mark in the history books again.
Ashley Caldwell teamed up with fellow American skiers Christopher Lillis and Justin Schoenefeld to win gold in the Olympics’ first mixed team aerials event.
Caldwell, 28, was beaming when she talked to the TODAY show shortly after the victory. She said she didn’t think it was real until she was standing on top of the podium.
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“It is a dream come true,” Caldwell said. “I’ve been at this for a long time, and I’ve been on the hunt for gold for my entire career. To do it next to Justin and Chris was incredible.”
Caldwell is skilled in doing breathtaking flips and twists — and accustomed to making history. She’s the only woman to ever land a quadruple-twisting triple backflip in competition, a move known as “The Daddy.”
She told TODAY she’ll attempt that trick again in her individual competition in Beijing.
Last month, Caldwell told News4 the tricks still sometimes make her nervous.
“Aerials is obviously a very scary sport, but also a very fun and rewarding sport,” she said.
“When you stand on top of that jump, we’re scared to do some of the tricks that we’re doing,” she added. “But then you do the trick, and you overcome that fear, and it’s successful because of all that hard work. That’s just a really rewarding feeling, and that’s why I keep coming back to it.”
Caldwell was a precocious, breakout star when she made her Olympic debut as a 16-year-old at the 2010 Vancouver Games.
The 2017 world champion is now in her fourth Olympics but had never finished higher than 10th.
The 28-year-old Caldwell and Schoenefeld have been dating for about three years, making her breakthrough to an Olympic podium all the sweeter.
The group’s victory gave the U.S. its first medals in the freestyle skiing discipline since Jeret “Speedy” Peterson in 2010.
Caldwell grew up doing skiing and gymnastics, and then her mom suggested she try combining the two.
“I thought she was insane, obviously, and thought there was no way I could possibly do that,” she said.
She’s had setbacks along the way, including hard falls and needing surgery on both ACLs. But she has always overcome, and now has a gold Olympic medal to prove how high she can fly.