This little part of Virginia where we live is turning out a crop of notable 16-year-olds. First Maddy Curtis made “American Idol” and now Ashley Caldwell from just down the other side of the road is in the Winter Olympics:
It’s hard to imagine that anyone enjoyed Friday night’s Opening Ceremony as much as Ashley Caldwell. In fact, it’s hard to imagine anyone enjoying much of anything as much as Caldwell, the youngest American on the U.S. team and a one-woman — one-girl? — ball of fire in her own right.
Precocious doesn’t begin to describe Caldwell, a 16-year-old freestyle aerialist who lived in Loudoun County — the beautifully named Hamilton, to be precise — until her family moved to Charleston, S.C., two years ago, around the time the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association selected her for its Elite Air Program in Lake Placid, N.Y. Here’s how Caldwell describes learning her journey to the Olympics:
“You just keep doing small jumps, you work up, you add twists and you add flips and eventually you're doing a full-double-full on snow and going to the Olympic Games.”
And because she made it sound so simple, she laughs. Caldwell laughs a lot. At a news conference for the aerial team, Caldwell — with all of three World Cup competitions under her belt — marched in, sat at Jeret Peterson’;s seat, and waited with a mischievous grin for someone — preferably Peterson — to notice and force her to move. Classic little sister move.
She has earned the right to give her teammates grief because in those three World Cup appearances, she had three top-15 finishes. That’s nothing to laugh at, but pretty much everything else Caldwell says and does is entertaining. During a question-and-answer session with the media, she professed her nervousness and then charmed the room, starting with, “None of this would have been possible without [veteran teammates] Emily Cook and Ryan St. Onge.” [Long pause, and then a deadpan delivery.] “I wasn’t told to say that.”
She wasn’;t done, either. Asked about her relationship with her teammates, she said: “They give you tons of advice. They’re helping us. I’m helping them retain their youth.”
Her event will start February 20.