Caldwell Fifth at Aerials World Championships
Reigning Aerials World Champion, Ashley Caldwell (Ashburn, Va.) lead the U.S. Aerial Ski Team with a fifth-place finish at the 2019 FIS Snowboard, Freestyle and Freeski World Championships, presented by Toyota, held at Deer Valley Resort Wednesday. Chris Lillis (Pittsford, N.Y.) led the men, placing seventh.
Russia's Maxim Burov topped the podium as the new men’s World Champion, with Oleksandr Abramenko of Ukraine coming in second and Noe Roth from Switzerland in third. Aliaksandra Ramanouskaya of Belarus was crowned the new women’s World Champion, with Russia's Liubov Nikitina coming in second and China's Xu Mengtao in third.
“If it wasn’t me or one of my teammates on the top of the podium, I wanted to it to be Aliaksandra so I’m excited for her,” said Caldwell.
Coming back from a shoulder injury, Caldwell was just six months post-op with only a handful of triple jumps under her belt as she came into the World Champs finals. One of the few women on the World Cup circuit to perform triples, Caldwell is known for not backing down when it comes to challenging herself and pushing the sport of aerials forward.
“I’m proud of my performance even though I didn’t come home with a medal," Caldwell said. "I think I could have. It was there for me, I just didn’t have the practice under my belt. It was a push for me to get to Worlds at all. I’m really happy that I came here and did triples and stayed true to my ethos, even though it was the hardest event for me to stay true to that in my whole career.
“As a winter sports athlete, the Olympics is what we push for. And if you're not pushing for the Olympics, you’re pushing for World Championships," she said. "And if you’re not pushing for World Championships, you’re pushing for the events in your backyard. And Deer Valley is our backyard, it’s our home field and to have World Championships here and to have Jon [Lillis] and I be reigning World Champions was a huge push this year. I had a rough Olympics and a rough season afterward so the inspiration of the Deer Valley crowd is definitely what pushed me to go out there and do the triples today.”
The U.S. had two World Championship athlete debuts at Wednesday’s event: Christopher Lillis and Morgan Northrop (Haymarket, Va.). Northrop finished 12th overall.
Christopher Lillis made an impressive show at his first FIS World Championships. “I mean I couldn’t imagine a better place to start off my World Championships career! I am the youngest man on our team and have definitely been playing that on our team for the last few years. To come back from ACL surgery and compete here in front of the Deer Valley crowd was just amazing,” he said.
Alex Bowen (Springville, N.Y.), the silver medalist at the 2015 World Championships, had some strong training jumps but finished 12th overall in the men’s competition. Bowen has hinted that this event is likely his last. “I’m thinking it’s true that this was my last show. This is what I wanted. I wanted to come to Deer Valley, qualify for World Champs, compete under the lights and I feel pretty good about it. The day could have gone better, I could have jumped better, but overall I’m really content right now and happy with my choices.”
Aerials continue with the Team event on Feb. 7, under the lights at Deer Valley Resort. This is the first time Team Aerials will be competed during World Championships, ahead of its Olympic debut in Beijing in 2022. "There's still time to become a World Champion, we have a team event which I'll be competing in tomorrow. We're very excited to hopefully kick that off with a bang and take home our gold for the USA," said Lillis.
HOW TO WATCH
All times EST
Thursday, Feb. 7
12:00 a.m. - FIS World Championships men and women’s aerials - Deer Valley Resort, Utah - NBCSN*
9:00 p.m. - FIS World Championships men and women’s team aerials - Deer Valley Resort, Utah - NBCSN, NBC Sports Gold