There are those who dream. There are those who do. Then there are those like Keely Cashman.
The 22-year-old Strawberry, California native recently realized a lifelong dream as a member of the United States Olympic Ski Team competing in the 2022 Olympics in Beijing.
“When I was probably in like third grade or something I remember writing it,” Cashman said about her early days goal setting and skiing. “They asked us what we wanted to do and there was a little presentation. Mine was always skiing, skiing, skiing so I think I always knew it was possible. And I think my whole life I’ve been working for it.”
The Olympic athlete shared skiing was just in her blood, both a family passion, as well as growing up in a community where ski days were a thing at school. Cashman shared she may have been put in ski boots even before she could walk.
“It was in our family. My dad grew up racing and my older brother and younger brother,” the Olympian said. “It was like a family affair and then I started racing when I was five.”
With the encouragement of mom Christy and dad John Cashman, the skier quickly became one with the slopes and stayed busy fine tuning her skills.
“It was definitely a family thing we did on the weekends. We’d go up every weekend or almost every day after school, but it was also the school,” she said of the early days on the slopes. “At Pinecrest School on Tuesdays, we would just go skiing. We would all meet up there. There’d be no school that day. So that has kind of been the early memories for me with that.”
Coached early on by her father, Cashman shared that while their coach-athlete partnership would eventually have to end as her career grew, the bond would eventually transition as the family relationship could make things a bit more complicated in a team atmosphere.
“I would say that most of my success, I mean, pretty much all I owe to my family and my dad,” she said proudly. “He’s coached my brothers and I ever since we started racing, and ever since I made it up to the national team. He’s taught me literally everything I know about the sport … about skiing.
“You know, it’s kind of tough when you have a coach and also a parent, sometimes that can get interesting,” she continued of her mentor. “But for me, it’s always been great and he’s taught me everything I know, but he’s also been a really good dad. I still call him on race day when I’m feeling nervous or stressed and I really could not do it without him. I would not be where I am today without him.”
The family bond and excitement went next level when Cashman learned of her Olympic team achievement in January 2022, just weeks before packing up and traveling to Beijing. The skier shared while the achievement was surreal, she was also a bit hesitant to accept the reality early on.
“It was pretty crazy. I will say though, that I didn’t really accept it until I was like in China,” she shared, “because we have all these things with COVID going on and we still had a few races left and I’ve had teammates that get injured right before the Olympics and aren’t able to go. And also, just with the COVID stuff going around that I was like, okay, you made it but you, like, still have to get there and everything has to go right so it took a while before I was like fully accepting of it.”
Cashman went on to share that the moment when it finally truly sunk in was during the Olympic Opening Ceremonies, describing entering the ceremonies as mind boggling.
“Walking out, seeing the rings was definitely a memory,” she said of seeing the symbolic Olympic Rings in person. “I kept picturing how this would look on TV if I was watching at home. Walking out across stage I was just thinking I hope my parents are watching.”
During the 2022 Games, Cashman participated in three events, beginning with Super G, followed by Downhill and ending with Combined.
“I was a little bit nervous and I skied a little bit safe and wasn’t really charging,” she said of her one shot at Super G, “so I wasn’t super happy with that. But then I think that actually helped going into the Downhill; I was able to just relax and just be like, okay, you can just ski how you know how and then I was a top finishing American in that event.”
That was a highlight for sure for the athlete from her first Olympic experience and, looking to the future, Cashman confided she hopes to return to compete at the Italy Winter Olympics in 2026.
As for now, Cashman will take a little break, work at the family coffee shop and then return to train with the U.S. Ski team.
Reflecting back to the third grader she once was, living the dream, which became a goal, Cashman offers some wisdom for other youngsters in the 209, passionate about what they do.
“I would probably say that there’s absolutely no limit to what you can do,” she shared. “Being from such a small town and I know that other people probably feel this way too. It’s kind of hard to see what’s out there because we’re kind of isolated in this small area.
“But I would say just because you’re from a small area, there’s nothing you can’t do,” she concluded. “As a kid, I definitely had big dreams and I never did think I couldn’t do it. I hope that there’s little kids out there that think that too and I would say dream big because anything is possible.”