Pyeongchang, South Korea • The first time Madison Olsen saw an aerial skier in action was 16 years ago. It was 2002, and the Park City girl and her family watched the best in the world perform high-flying flips and twists.

Olsen’s family once again was watching Olympic action Thursday night, half a world away from where the seed of a dream once was planted. Only this time, the 22-year-old Olsen was the one at the top of the hill.

“It was so overwhelming,” she said. “I was standing at the top. I couldn’t figure out if I was shaking because I was cold or nervous.”

By the end of the qualifying rounds, though, Olsen was feeling something else.

“Awesome,” she said.

Olsen and her teammate, Kiley McKinnon, both advanced to Friday night’s aerials finals, where they will have a chance to compete for an Olympic medal. The two Americans both scored an 87.88 on their best jumps, grabbing the final two spots in the final.

“It was pretty nerve-wracking,” Olsen said after waiting until the last jump had finished to learn if she had advanced. “I didn’t think I was going to make it through for a second. But I’m super happy … and excited to do some more jumps tomorrow.”

American Ashley Caldwell, the U.S. women’s best chance at an aerials medal, failed to advance. The 24-year-old is known for her high degree of difficulty in her jumps, an approach she said she hopes pushes the sport forward. But it also has cost her trips to the podium.

“I’m proud of what I’m trying to represent,” Caldwell said. “… The reason I take the risk is because I like the reward. And when you seize the reward, everyone’s all happy dandy go-lucky. And when you don’t, it either hurts or it hurts, physically or emotionally, and this is an emotional pain. It hurts right now, but I’m proud that I take those risk, and sometimes I do seize those rewards.”

Caldwell had her sights on a medal in her third Olympics despite competing with a shoulder injury she suffered in training this week when a gust of wind caused her to crash during a jump.

“That gold medal, I want it so bad, and I didn’t get it this time,” she said. “Maybe I go four more years and get it, or maybe I don’t, but I still go out there every day and push myself as hard as I can, and I’m proud of that.”

While Caldwell’s future Olympic plans still are unclear, she said she planned to compete through this year’s World Championships in Deer Valley.

“My hometown? That sounds pretty nice,” she said.

As Caldwell tried to swallow “this bitter pill,” Olsen’s family had begun to celebrate. Her family — her parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and siblings — cheered her on all the way through her interviews at the end of the competition. For Olsen, just making it to the Olympics was a dream.

“Really the whole thing has been amazing,” she said. “Being surrounded by Olympic athletes is really inspirational.”

She’ll be surrounded by 11 other Olympic aerialists Friday night when she returns to the hill for another time.