Long known as one of the most explosive athletes in all of FIS Freestyle Skiing, the USA's Ashley Caldwell has in the past few seasons has earned her place as one of the greatest of all time with her boundary-pushing jump arsenal and showstopping performances in high-pressure situations.
Caldwell deserves accolades simply for still being around to drop in on competition on the FIS Freestyle aerials World Cup tour, having missed nearly three full years of competition between February 2011 and December 2013 after back-to-back knee injuries. For many athletes, that seemingly never-ending cycle of injury, surgery, and rehabilitation would have been too much to persevere through, but Caldwell found the strength to continue, and through doing so has achieved some of the greatest successes in her sport.
In 2014/15, her second season back from injury, Caldwell climbed to second on the aerials overall rankings by winter's end, only to come back even stronger in 2015/16 and claim the crystal globe for top aerials athlete of the season.
Though 2016/17 marked something of a step back for Caldwell on the World Cup tour, where she finished the season ranked 10th, she would more than make up for it come time for the Sierra Nevada 2017 FIS Freestyle Ski and Snowboard World Championships, putting on one of the greatest performances in the history of the sport.
Dropping in last after qualifying for the super final in top spot, Caldwell would become the first ladies' aerials skier to land a quad-twisting triple flip in competition - a full, double full, full - to take the gold medal and the world champion title.
With the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games coming up in February, Caldwell is the unique position of having a jump in her repertoire that, as far as we know at the start of the season, no other athlete can match. If she can continue to show the steely resolve, bravery, and skill that she has exhibited so often through her career up to this point, she could be impossible to beat come time for competition in Korea.
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