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American aerialists feel right at home

January 16, 2017
By LOU REUTER - Senior Sports Writer (lreuter@adirondackdailyenterprise.com) , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - Living and training in Lake Placid as a young freestyle skier has played an integral role in the aerials career of United States Ski Team veteran Ashley Caldwell. And the same could be said for another American, Mac Bohonnon.

On Saturday, the two soared their way onto the podium as the World Cup freestyle tour wrapped up its two-day stay in Lake Placid with the aerials competition at the Olympic Ski Jump Complex.

As the only athlete jumping off the triples kicker, Caldwell topped the field to take the women's gold medal while Bohonnon claimed silver in the men's event, finishing runner-up to defending Olympic champion Anton Kushnir of Belarus.

Article Photos

American Ashley Caldwell is all smiles while celebrating her victory in Saturday’s World Cup aerials competition at the Olympic Ski Jumping Complex in Lake Placid.
(News photo — Lou Reuter)

In front of a big crowd on Saturday, the pair both had another night to remember at the site where it all began for them as youngsters years ago. Caldwell turned in a dominating performance on the same hill where she won her first World Cup gold back in 2011, and Bohonnon added a second-place result to the gold medal he captured two years ago when the World Cup tour made its last stop in Lake Placid.

The competition format started with a qualifying jump, moved into a round of 12 and then finished with the final round of six, and Caldwell turned in a winning effort of 99.63 points, which was well ahead of Australia's Danielle Scott, the silver medalist, and third-place finisher Kristina Spiridonova of Russia.

While all the other women were performing their jumps off the venue's two doubles kickers, Caldwell was fulfilling her fix to go a little bigger, a little higher, and the payoff was golden.

"With China not being here, I knew I would be the only one doing triples. I was really mentally ready to go up there," Caldwell said. "I don't no if being there by myself gave me a mental advantage. It's almost like it makes me feel really awesome and cool because I'm doing bigger tricks, but then I think maybe it's a bad idea because I'm up here all by myself.

"I haven't done triples since last month at the last event in China, and I'm kind of like an adrenaline junky," Caldwell continued. "I was having a little bit of withdrawal, so I told my coach we have to go do some triples. I need to do some backflips."

Caldwell said she was dealing with a sore knee during training earlier in the week, and after qualifying in 10th place to move onto the round of 12, she decided to continue competing. She said the primary goal was staying injury free, and the second was reaching the top of the podium.

"It's stay safe and then win," she said. "Sometimes neither of those happen, and sometimes both of those happen, like tonight. I had to land is really what it came down to. The landing hill was sweet. They put so much work into the landing hill after the rain and the freezing. You really have to give credit to the hill crew that helped make sure the event ran as well as it did. I had a knee problem and had some difficulty training this week, but it didn't matter I guess. It hurts but it's not injured."

Caldwell headed into this season as the defending World Cup points champion, and turned in the top result of eighth place among the U.S. women at the most recent competition held in China on Dec. 18. And the 23-year-old said she couldn't have been more excited coming back to Lake Placid to compete.

"Just driving up here the memories come back. They just flood in ramdomly," said the two-time Olympian. "I have all these memories of being a kid and messing around here. It's awesome to come back here and have all that hard work and those years I put in pay off. To have a victory here means a lot.

"I love being here," she added. "I litterally grew up on those water ramps right next to this hill. It feels great coming through in front of the crowd and all those people who coached me and hung around and watched me grow up."

Although Bohonnon fell one place short of defending the title he won when the World Cup aerials competition was last held in Lake Placid in 2015, he was quite satisfied taking silver Saturday. Competing in front of family and friends, the Connecticut native finished less than a point out of first place. Kushnir won the contest with a score of 120.26 points on his final jump, with Bohonnon turning in a 119.4-point effort in the final round. Russia's Maxim Burov grabbed the bronze with a jump of 107.32 points. Jonathon Lillis also represented the U.S. in the finals and finished fifth with 81.90 points.

"I came out here and jumped really well," Bohonnon said. "I was really excited to be back here in Lake Placid. This is where my entire aerials career began. Iook my first jumps ever here, and to be here competing under the lights in front of all my family and so many friends who made the trek up here was really special.

"I'm really happy with my jumping and to come away with a second," he added. "Just a fraction of a point was the difference. You know I lost to an Olympic gold medalist, Anton Kushner, he's a great jumper and a great competitor. I definitely wanted that win but I really respect him. Ashley Caldwell got the first, I got second, and we started here together. Overall it was such a great night."

Caldwell, Bohonnon and the rest of the U.S. aerials team will be sticking around Lake Placid this week as they prepare to compete in the national championships, which will be held at the Olympic Jumping Complex on Thursday. Action kicks off with the qualifying round starting at 10:30 a.m.

 
 

 

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