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Ashley Caldwell Talks Redskins, Olympic Skiing Career


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"I've been known as the crazy, fearless chick on the hill," says Ashley Caldwell, an Olympic freestyle skier, over the phone from Park City, Utah.

A native of Ashburn, Va., and a lifelong Redskins fan, Caldwell, 21, doesn't give you much reason to think otherwise once she's launching herself 60 feet into the air and twisting into three backflips before landing at incredible speed.

For those unfamiliar with the sport, that's not an average accomplishment, especially for a girl. She's come to call her triple backflip her specialty, which likely garners the envy of her peers and the raised eyebrows of her male teammates. Its difficulty can occasionally set her back, but it always sets her apart.


"There's no one else really doing triples so it kind of makes it my signature move…It kind of helps to stand out," Caldwell said. “I’m throwing the biggest tricks out there by any of the women for a whole flip, so sometimes the risk doesn't pay off, but it was really incredible to have it pay off in Moscow and the end of the season."

Caldwell recently wrapped up the Freestyle Ski World Cup, where she won second place overall and finished first in two of the seven international events. In her final run, with just one day of previous training, she landed a triple backflip, propelling her to another strong, big-stage finish.

"It was incredible," Caldwell said. "It's really great to do well in the last few events."

Had she not experienced a few injuries along the tournament she may have ultimately taken first place. It's that somewhat inevitable fate – potentially risking physical health -- that made her decision to freestyle ski somewhat unconventional. 

"Surprisingly it was my mother," said Caldwell, who participated in gymnastics for 11 years. "We were watching the Olympics in 2006 and we saw these people doing what I thought was like a 'bajillion' flips, two and three backflips on skis and my mom was like, 'You can do that, you flip and you ski.' I was like, 'Mom, you're crazy, you shouldn't be encouraging your daughter to go chuck herself off these massive jumps 60 feet into the air.' But she knew me a little too well…and ever since I've been hooked."

Things moved quickly. She moved to Lake Placid, N.Y., to attend a training camp, started taking high school classes online and, shortly after, attended her first Olympic games, in Vancouver, at age 16.

"I was overwhelmed," she said. "I had no idea that I was at that level. I had progressed a lot throughout the season and I was kind of surprised I made the Olympic team. I wasn't really in a medal contending position. So it was really awesome to go to the Olympics and experience the entire Olympic games without the stress of competing for a medal."

Four years later, in Sochi, she finished in 10th place, continuing to make strides despite having to undergo two ACL knee surgeries, which sidelined her for multiple stints.

At one point, she even tweeted at quarterback Robert Griffin III, as they happened to be recovering from similar injuries simultaneously.


"I grew up right across from [Redskins Park]," said Caldwell, now living and training in Park City. "I went to games when I could. I did the 'Punt Pass and Kick' competition that they hold and threw a football at halftime at [FedExField].

"I had done the competition before but getting to throw a football on an NFL field was crazy," she said. "Felt pretty cool, especially at my age."

Caldwell has also competed with personalized skis featuring the Redskins' logo and lettering of which she said she always gets some compliments.

Certain competition regulations prevent her from wearing them but, she says, they offer the same support from a technical standpoint.

As for returning home to Virginia, Caldwell sees it as a possibility but knows she has several more years of intense training and competing before she can make that decision.

"I loved growing up in Virginia and would love to raise a family there," she said. "I'm probably out [in Park City] for the next three years so it's kind of far away to think about that already."  




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