I had planned something a lot different than the blog I am about to write.  On December 21st and 22nd I was planning on competing in a Super Continental Cup at the Utah Olympic Park in Park City, Utah.  Last year the same event was called U.S. selection events.  I competed last year and got third place.  You might think that third place is pretty nice.  Well it isn’t if you got third place and tore your ACL in the process.  I flew home on December 23, 2011, to Houston, Texas, where my family lives, with a brace on my right knee and crutches.  My coach was nice enough to upgrade my flight and I got to hang out in first class while I thought about all the competitions I was going to miss out on; all the jumping that I wasn’t going to be able to do.  It wasn’t best way to experience first class. 

Ashley Caldwell
 Jumping in December – before the crash

The road to recovery was rough.  As a professional athlete you make a lot of plans and set a lot of goals.  A serious injury really puts a damper on those plans and goals.  My ACL injury in December 2011 made me miss the entire competition season and the first couple months of summer training.  I worked extremely hard in rehab.  I did exactly as I was told and pushed through it.  I felt like I learned a lot of valuable lessons and I didn’t fret about all the things I missed out on.  I thought about all the extra school I did, all the extra time off that was good for the rest of my body.  I enjoyed my time off and felt like I matured as an athlete.

I came back this season stronger than I had ever been.  My legs were back to equal sizes and strength.  I felt great and ready to get back to snow.  I did a month of jumping at the same place where I had torn my ACL the year before. I felt like I had overcome all the physical and mental hurdles that the injury had set before me.  I was excited to go to China, Russia, Norway, Italy – all the countries on the tour this year. 

Right now, as I write this I’m on a plane to Houston.  It’s December 23rd and I’m sitting in first class.  My coach was nice enough to upgrade me to first class.  If you get upgraded to first class when you tear your right ACL you should definitely get upgraded when you tear your left ACL 363 days later.

I was jumping in official training at the same event and I took a pretty ordinary crash and felt the pop.  It was devastating.  It’s still devastating.  And while it feels like everything I worked for is gone right now, I know from the last time that it’s possible to come back and good things come out of terrible situations.  You always hear people say that there is always a silver lining.  I learned that last year.  And I’m going to prove it again this year. 

Ashley CaldwellWhile doing hill prep my first year I learned my first Russian phrase – Я работаю (“Ya rabotayou”).  My coach told me to always say this when he asks: Что ты делаешь? (“Sto ti dyellayesh?”)  He was asking me what I was doing; the reply was ‘I’m working.’  And that’s what I’m going to keep doing.  Although the tone is different now, the meaning for me is the same.

In the coming months, I am going to take you through my rehab and try to show you what this is going to take to make it not only back to the U.S. Ski Team, but to represent all of you at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games.

In the meantime – Hail to the Redskins, or if you see me tweet #HTTR now you know what that means.  One more win in the season ending game at FedEx Field vs. Dallas and they win their first NFC East Championship since 1999.  I was 6.  A lot has happened since then including me being a gymnast from Ashburn, Va. (home of Redskins Park) and converting into a skier who has competed at an Olympic Games.  The Redskins were nice enough to give me permission to put their logo on my skis which you see with the press shot from USSA.  I will be ready to “Fight for Old DC”, but it will have to come next year.

You can also follow my journey on Twitter @AshleySkis.