Team USA Golden in Mixed Team Aerials World Ski Championships
Aerials opened the FIS Freestyle World Championships in Bakuriani, Georgia, by winning gold at the mixed team event on February 19. Ashley Caldwell, Chris Lillis and Quinn Dehlinger represented Team USA with Kaila Kuhn and Justin Schoenefeld serving as alternates. Team USA has proven a force in mixed team aerials, winning the Olympic gold in Beijing in 2022 and World Championship bronze in 2021.
Challenging wind conditions made it impossible for Team USA to train the day prior, and provided for variable conditions for the actual event.
“Our coaches were amazing today,” explained Chris Lillis. “That’s (monitoring the wind) their job; they handle the wind adjustments. They put us in the right spot all day long and because of that we won the World Champs.”
Caldwell ran first in the qualification round, landing her full full to set the tone for Team USA for the next five jumps. Lillis and Dehlinger performed double-full full full. The combined score of 303.47 was the highest of the five nations competing, and USA went into the medal round seeded first.
For the medal round, Caldwell stomped a full double-full and had to wait in anticipation while her teammates prepared to jump for World Championship glory. Lillis performed a beautiful double-full full full to set Dehlinger up to take Team USA over the finish line. Dehlinger landed his double-full full full and sealed Team USA’s position as winners of the 2023 World Championships mixed team aerials event with a combined score of 331.37. Team China came in second and Team Ukraine came in third.
With this result, Caldwell and Lillis add another piece to their World Championships hardware collection: the fourth for Caldwell and third for Lillis. This marks Dehlinger’s first official World Championships start, having qualified in 2021 but did not compete. “I feel amazing. It's unbelievable that we went out here today and put down the jumps that we did and came out with the results that we did,” he said. “But at the same time, we knew what we were capable of and we just had to go out and perform.”
“Georgia’s been wonderful,” reflected Caldwell. “I knew this team was going to be one to beat and I wanted to be here for my teammates, and now I’m team World Champion. Most of my career has always been individual, so to switch to a team element, it’s more anxiety, more pressure, because everyone’s relying on you. But Team USA is stacked, we have a high degree of difficulty and we have this camaraderie and bond. We rock team events.”
Aerials continues World Ski Championship competition with singles qualifications Feb. 21 and finals Feb. 22.
“We’re excited for the next event, let’s go!” said Caldwell.
Mixed Team Aerials
2023 FIS Freestyle World Championships Live Coverage
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