Freestyle skiers eyeing Olympic history in Beijing

China 2022

The couple could be the first to medal together in a new event

PARK CITY, Utah (WAVY) — Love is in the air for a pair of freestyle skiers who have a chance to make history in Beijing.

Ashley Caldwell was 12 years old when she found aerial skiing.

“I had always done backflips, but in a controlled gymnastics setting,” said Caldwell. “So being outside and skiing and having that much more adrenaline, I think, is what hooked me into the sport.”

It didn’t take long for the Virginia native to fall in love.

“It’s the thrill, it’s the accomplishment of overcoming something that’s extremely scary and we put a lot of hard work into,” Caldwell said.

But the sport wasn’t the only love she found. Caldwell and her teammate, Justin Schoenefeld, are dating.

“We first met skiing, from freestyle,” Justin Schoenefeld said. “So we ended up competing together and eventually we just kind of clicked.”

They met about seven years ago and have been a couple for three — sharing their lives and their sport.

“Being able to share it with someone that actually knows what it feels like is really nice,” Caldwell said. “To have someone there who is supporting you all the time, knows what it’s like to be skiing and a triple backflip.”

They each have different strengths and use them to support one another. 

“Justin has a bunch of technical advantages over me, he’s an incredible jumper, so he can help with me those technical issues that I have jumping,” said Caldwell. “I have a lot of experience that I can help contribute to his jumping so we definitely help each other out and boost each other up.”

The pair could make history this winter in Beijing. For the first time in the Olympics, there will be a mixed team aerial event. If Schoenefeld makes it on the team and on the podium, they will be the first couple to medal together in that event.

“We’re trying to figure out if on the podium, we can kiss each other or not or if that’s not going to be allowed, we don’t know,” Cadwell said.

Not only are they eyeing Olympic history, but they’re also eyeing Olympic hardware.

“Trying to win twice,” said Schoenefeld. “One with my girlfriend and one individually and coming home with two medals.”

“We’d come home with four.” Caldwell said.

If Caldwell makes the team, Beijing would be her fourth Olympic Games. 

“I’m going to win. I want to be on top of that podium,” she said. “This go around, I have two chances.”

For Schoenefeld, it would be his first.

“It kind of gives me the chills thinking about it now,” he said. “The Olympics are just such a big deal to me. It would just be a dream to be an Olympian and call myself one.”

They know the coronavirus will impact their Olympic journey, but after one year of training and competing during the pandemic, they’re prepared.

“Having everyone on our team vaccinated has been a game-changer in terms of the stress that we’re all feeling when we are traveling abroad,” Caldwell said.

 They’ll continue to prepare as February approaches and their shared dreams become closer to reality.

“We can share that for the rest of our lives, like show our grandkids,” Caldwell said.

“Quite the story,” said Schoenefeld.

They should find out in mid-January if they make the team.

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