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Caldwell learns from her mentor

January 20, 2011
By LOU REUTER, Enterprise Senior Sports Writer

LAKE PLACID - When Ashley Caldwell began skiing with the United States women's freestyle aerials team as a young teenager, her first roommate was Emily Cook, the most veteran member of the squad.

That was nearly four years ago, and this week the two aerialists lead the American women's team into Lake Placid for the Nature Valley Freestyle World Cup. They will be among the athletes kicking off three days of breathtaking World Cup action when they compete in the aerials event Friday at the Olympic Ski Jumping Complex. The contests then move to Whiteface Mountain in Wilmington for moguls skiing on Saturday and Sunday.

"Emily was my first roommate when I started," Caldwell said. "I was 14 and she was 28. I idolized her, and at the same time, she was probably thinking 'who is this punk kid?' As it turned out, I couldn't have had a better roommate. I've learned a lot from her."

Article Photos

Olympian Ashley Caldwell of Lake Placid focuses on the landing hill during training Wednesday for this weekend’s Nature Valley Freestyle Cup event in Lake Placid. Caldwell, a year-round resident at the Olympic Training Center, will compete Friday in aerials at the Olympic Ski Jump Complex.
(Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

This week, Caldwell and Cook are happy to be back in a place that feels like home: Lake Placid. As a 14-year veteran of the U.S. team and a two-time Olympian, Cook, who turned 32 earlier this month, has competed and trained here on numerous occasions. Meanwhile, Lake Placid has become a second home to the 17-year-old Caldwell, who is a year-round resident at the Olympic Training Center.

After battling numerous injuries over the years, Cook is back for another season in a career that has now spanned three decades. She got off to a solid start a week ago, just missing the podium with a fourth-place finish at the season-opening World Cup event in Quebec. The Massachusetts native medaled in her last World Cup appearance in Lake Placid with a bronze in 2009.

"It's always exciting to be back here jumping in front of the great Lake Placid fans," Cook said. "I love this hill. Of course you always want to be on the podium, but my goal here is to land two good jumps. I can't control what the other girls do. If I do the best I can, I'll be happy."

Fact Box

World Cup schedule

Nature Valley Freestyle World Cup

Friday-Sunday

Aerial Competition at Olympic Jumping Complex: $15 adults, $9 Jr. (12-and-under) and Sr. (65+)

Mogul Competition at Whiteface: A Whiteface lift ticket is required to view this event

Friday - Aerial Competition (OJC)

8:15-9:35 a.m.

Ladies' Aerials Official Training

9:45-10:30

Ladies' Aerial Qualifications

10:45-12:15 p.m.

Men's Aerial Training

12:25-1:25

Men's Aerial Qualifications

1:50-2:20

Ladies' and Men's Finalist Training (OJC)

2:30-2:50

Ladies' Aerial Finals

2:55-3:20

Men's Aerial Finals

3:30-4:45

Awards

Saturday - Mogul Competition (Wilderness)

8:25-9:00 a.m.

Ladies' Mogul Qualifications Training

9:15-10:15

Ladies' Mogul Qualifications

10:45-11:25

Men's Mogul Qualifications Training

11:35-1 p.m.

Men's Mogul Qualifications

1:10-1:30

Ladies' and Men's Mogul Finalist Training

1:45-2:15

Ladies' Mogul Finals

2:20-2:50

Men's Mogul Finals

3:00-3:15

Awards (Cloudspin Lounge)

Sunday - Mogul Competition

8:25-9 a.m.

Ladies' Mogul Qualifications Training

9:15-10:15

Ladies' Mogul Qualifications

10:45-11:25

Men's Mogul Qualifications Training

11:35-1 p.m.

Men's Mogul Qualifications

1:10-1:30

Ladies' and Men's Mogul Finalist Training

1:45-2:15

Ladies' Mogul Finals

2:20-2:50

Men's Mogul Finals

3-3:15

Awards (Cloudspin Lounge)

Caldwell echoed the same feelings during a training session Wednesday at the base of the same hill where she nailed down a berth to her first Olympics with a solid performance in World Cup action one year ago. Like Cook, Caldwell wasn't too far out of the medals a week ago in Quebec. Caldwell reached the final by qualifying in seventh place in the opening round, but missed the landing on her second jump to finish in 10th place. Despite the tumble, Caldwell's 10th-place result was her best World Cup finish to date.

"It was great just getting to the final," Caldwell said. "I'm disappointed I didn't get it done on my second jump, but getting 10th place is heading in the right direction. If you do good two jumps consistently, the medals will sort themselves out."

Like the men's team, which is headed by veteran Ryan St. Onge, the women's aerials squad is in the process of a changing of the guard as a number of young skiers are working their way up the rankings. After flirting with retirement following last winter's Vancouver Games, Cook has returned this season with hopes of a strong showing in the upcoming World Championships at the Deer Valley Resort near Park City, Utah, which is now her home.

"I'm really looking forward to the World Championships at Deer Valley," Cook said. "That's my home now, and it would be great doing well there. That's one reason I'm back, but I'm also back because I'm still feeling strong. I plan on doing this as long as I am healthy. I know there is life after jumping. When I'm 50, I still want to be walking.

"I'm also happy to see all our young skiers coming along," Cook added. "They are the future of this team. We are deep with young skiers, and they are going to be good. I want to be a role model for them."

Whereas Cook now approaches here career season by season, Caldwell, who placed 10th at her first Olympics in Vancouver, appears to be in it for the long haul.

"Last year I was on a fast track," Caldwell said. "I made my first U.S. Ski Team, I was rookie of the year and I went to the Olympics. That's only inspired me to get better. I had more than 1,000 jumps in during the summer, so I better be getting better. If you look at the years by Olympics, I'm looking at Sochi, and the Olympics after that and after that. That's 12 years. I love jumping."

 
 

 

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