RUNNING WITH THE BOYS: Olympic skier Ashley Caldwell isn't concerned with being the best female skier, or showing up her male counterparts. She wants to be the best, regardless of gender.

Ashley Caldwell’s got a hefty list of accomplishments of the athletic variety, but they weren’t achieved through practice alone. She’s had to master the mental approach too.

Matching the boys

Although her parents had her involved in gymnastics by the time she was three, Caldwell was fourteen when she started her current and best-known accomplishment as a freestyle skier and aerialist. Two years later, she was the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic team in Vancouver. But her proudest feat was winning the aerial skiing world championships with a new trick — one that had not yet been landed by a woman. “That has kind of always been what has driven me over the years, to jump like the boys,” she says. “That’s what I’m most proud of.” 

Becoming the best

For Caldwell, it’s not just about being physically active. “I learned it’s how to be a team player, how to be dedicated, how to win, how to lose, how to stay motivated and how to get over injury or fear.” But for girls, it’s tougher to learn these lessons through sports, because they typically aren’t as encouraged or supported to pursue professional athletics. “It can be any sport,” she says. “The idea of having goals and then learning how to accomplish those goals is a great element that sport provides for girls at a young age,” she says. “Being athletic, healthy and competitive is not gender exclusive. I want to be the best — I don’t care if I’m a boy or girl.” 

But Caldwell recognizes that winning isn’t the only goal. “It’s about your own personal growth and finding something you’re passionate about.”

ROADS TO SUCCESS: Caldwell recognizes that the world of sports isn't always as encouraging for women as it is for men, but has not let that deter her from establishing a laudatory career.

Recovering right

Caldwell’s number one tip for jumping back on the wheel after a long break? Start small. “I think some people have this crazy plan, then in the first three days they’re sore, tired and discouraged.” She keeps a level head by recognizing that it’s not going to happen right away, and that there are steps to take. “You got to take the time to ease into stuff before you go right into it. Having a life changing moment where you totally alter your whole diet, fitness routine and sleep pattern is too hard to do all at once,” she says. For her, it’s about slowly starting to trend toward a healthier lifestyle after taking some time off.