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Caldwell Wins First World Cup
LAKE PLACID, NY Just four years after switching from gymnastics to skiing, Olympian Ashley Caldwell (Charleston, SC) won her first career World Cup Saturday at the Nature Valley Freestyle Cup. The 17-year-old threw a stunning second jump to clinch the win in her adopted hometown of Lake Placid.
The U.S. Ski Team's Ashley Caldwell is carried to the podium by teammates, including World Champion Ryan St. Onge (left), after the 17 year old won her first career World Cup in the Nature Valley Freestyle Challenge in Lake Placid. (U.S. Ski Team/Harald Marbler)
Reigning World Champion Ryan St. Onge (Winter Park, CO) was second.
Caldwell, the 2010 World Cup Rookie of the Year, was fourth after her first jump. But in the finals, she rode a wave of wind, soaring higher than she had ever jumped before, to take the win. Her 99.93 on the second jump was an amazing score for a double flip.
"The weather was really crazy. There was wind, snow and then perfectly blue skies. I think I got the blue sky times," said an excited Caldwell. "They were two of the best jumps that I can ever remember doing, they both felt really good."
Caldwell’s win marks the first U.S. women’s victory since Emily Cook (Belmont, MA), who was fourth for the second straight event Friday, won in Moscow on March 1, 2008.
Caldwell’s ascent on the world stage has been rapid. A former gymnast, Caldwell switched to competitive skiing only a few years ago. She first skied under coach Nick Preston at Waterville Valley, NH before joining the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association's elite aerial development program in Lake Placid. In just her second season skiing competitive, she won a NorAm Cup. A year later, at the age of 16, she was the youngest female member of the 2010 U.S. Olympic Team, finishing 10th in Vancouver. She also took Rookie of the Year honors on the World Cup.
"This gives Ashley so much confidence," said Freestyle Aerials Head Coach Todd Ossian. "She just keeps improving and it is so great to be able to watch her. Conditions were all over the place today but both she and Ryan were able to make the best of it and throw some unbelievable jumps. Today was such a great day. I am so proud of Ashley and Ryan."
"I can't believe I just won!" said Caldwell after her victory. "It doesn't seem real to me, after training so hard, it feels so good to get this win under my belt."
Motivated by his fourth place finish last week, St. Onge pushed his performance to the next level in an effort to make the podium on American snow. It was his best result since his victory in Moscow in 2009.
"I'm very happy with my results today," exclaimed St. Onge. "I'm also so happy for Ashley. Having those young kids coming up winning huge events is just incredible.
"Coming in second is huge for me. I've had first place finishes and I've had last place finishes but never a second. It's something that says, OK you're not quite in first place but you tried your best," said St. Onge of his own performance.
St. Onge had a very successful 2009 season, earning World Cup victories at the Deer Valley Resorty in Park CIty, UT and Moscow, along with winning the World Championship. His 2010 season did not go as planned. He failed to find the podium throughout the season and nearly missed qualifying for the Olympics. In Vancouver, St. Onge had a good Olympic showing, barely missing a medal in fourth. But St. Onge has always been a fierce competitor and has been training harder than ever for this season. And his efforts are paying dividends. Last week he just missed out on the podium ending fourth. Now, with Friday’s second result it appears the World Champion is back on form at just the right time!
The Nature Valley Freestyle Challenge continues in Lake Placid this weekend with moguls and dual moguls featuring World Cup leader Hannah Kearney (Norwich, VT). Aerials competition takes flight again next weekend, Jan. 29, where competition returns to Canada at the former Olympic host city of Calgary. In two weeks Deer Valley Resort and Park City Mountain Resort in Park City, UT will host the 2011 World Championships.
FIS Freestyle World Cup
Lake Placid, NY – Jan. 21, 2011
1. Ashley Caldwell, Charleston, SC, 187.65
2. Alla Tsuper, Belarus, 186.42
3. Mengtao Xu, China, 183.82
4. Emily Cook Belmont, MA, 175.54
17. Allison Lee, Manchester, CT, 69.16
18. Alexa Devereaux, Park City, UT, 69.93
For complete results: www.fis-ski.com
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