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WRAP: Aerial skiers jumping for joy

24 February 2014

FREESTYLE – AERIALS: Australia reaffirmed itself as one of the world’s aerial skiing powerhouse nations when it wound up its Sochi campaign with two medals, a first for the Aussies.

Australian Olympic history was rewritten by Lydia Lassila and David Morris with bronze and silver medal performances, creating the first male and female aerial skiing medal combination for any Australian Olympic Winter Games team.

Not only did Morris add to Lassila’s bronze, he etched his name in the record books as the first Australian male to win an Olympic aerial medal.

Morris, who briefly walked away from the sport several years ago, arrived in Sochi as a medal chance but perhaps not with the lofty credentials of his Chinese and Belarusian rivals, which contributed to the special nature of the 29-year-old’s medal.

Forty-eight hours earlier, Australia’s adulation of the aerial squad was intensified by Lassila, the recently turned 32-year-old mother and four-time Olympian already with a gold medal to her name.

After winning through to the four woman super-final, Lassila was true to her promise. If another gold was within reach, she was going for it…and go for it, she did.

Rather than deliver a jump that she knew was achievable, but may have left her short of her gold medal target, the Melbourne-based mum chose a jump that no other woman in the history of the sport had attempted in competition – a quad twisting triple somersault.

As Lassila soared into the air, so too did her chances of securing back-to-back gold medals, but the high degree of difficulty jump failed to achieve the score she was looking for as a result of a landing which robbed her of precious points.

An emotional Lassila said that she had no regrets and was particularly proud that she had become the first woman to execute a full, double, full, full, a jump she landed for the first time in training only days before the final.

“It was my maximum effort and to be able to do that trick in the super-final was something and I’ve left my mark forever and made history with that trick. It would have been great to land it, but I was stretching for my life and I was really trying, believe me,” she said.

“It was really an all-or-nothing approach. I had nothing to lose. It was just an amazing opportunity for me to be able to do that and to do it my way.”

Australia’s Laura Peel, 24, Danielle Scott, 23, and Samantha Wells, 24, each showed why they are quickly establishing themselves as the next generation to follow in Lassila’s tracks and continue Australia’s proud history in aerial skiing.

Competing in their first Olympics, Peel was 7th overall, Scott 9th and Wells was 18th. Each displayed their enormous potential and with more work on jumps with a higher degree of difficulty, their continued ascendancy in world rankings seems assured.

The men’s and women’s finals were a resounding success for Belarus with 34-year-old veteran Alla Tsuper becoming the oldest freestyle skiing gold medallist and Anton Kushnir delivering arguably the best jump of his career to secure another gold for his country.

Chinese athletes started the men’s and women’s events as the hot favourites but did not live up to expectations. Mengtao Xu was the women’s silver medallist while Jia Zongyang pocketed the men’s bronze.

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