Ashley Caldwell had no intentions of starting slow. The two-time Olympic aerialist opted to attempt the toughest trick in her arsenal on her first jump of these Sochi Games on Friday. She landed the trick — a triple somersault featuring a full twist on each flip — for the first time in her life in a practice session Tuesday. She saw no reason to wait until Firday’s finals to pull it out.
Caldwell lifted off the ramp and nailed the tricky manuever, posting the highest score of the first qualification round — a 101.25 — and sending her straight into the finals.
“I feel awesome about it,” Caldwell said.
The top six aerialists in the first qualifying round get to bypass the second qualification.
Caldwell will be joined there by her American teammate Emily Cook, who posted the fourth-best qualifying score. Appearing in her third Olympics, Cook performed a full-double full, which is two back somersaults with a full twist on the first flip and two on the second. She was clean in the air but had a slight bobble on the landing. Judges gave her a score of 80.01, good enough for fifth place.
Caldwell, 20, was the third competitor to hit the ramp and set a high bar for the others. The trick carried the highest degree of difficulty of any tricks attempted by the 23 aerialists in the preliminary round.
The Ashburn native, who missed two years of competition after tearing ligaments in both knees, is appearing in her second Olympic games.
The finals are scheduled for 9:30 p.m. in Sochi (12:30 p.m. in Washington).