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Morris no minor player in aerial skiing

22 January 2010

Busy trying to keep up with his all-female teammates, busy trying to qualify for the Winter Olympics and too busy it seems to get the blood clot removed from his spine.

Sustained "a few years ago" while practising triple somersaults training on a water ramp, Morris said he couldn't walk for an hour after landing bolt upright.

An MRI scan later revealed the damage.

"It's rather painful and it's still there because it will take a couple of months of recovery if I get it removed which I decided I don't have time for," the 25-year-old said.

Given the last six years of his life have been lived in fast forward learning a new sport, you could probably excuse him for the flippancy.

In 2004 as Jacqui Cooper returned to aerial skiing from serious injury, Alisa Camplin continued her dominance and Lydia Lassila started making her mark, gymnast Morris was first approached by former Australian world champion Kirstie Marshall to try the sport.

He started with one major thing on his side - the ability to ski.

"Most of the girls on the team were previously gymnasts who hadn't skied before so I definitely had a slight advantage when I started," he said.

"I'm definitely not the best skier in the world but I can stay on my feet and land and that's pretty important."

Marshall took him under her wing and it soon became evident that Morris had what was needed to be a success in the sport.

When he eventually met with Australian team management, they too thought he had great potential and offered him the opportunity to train and travel with them even though it had been strictly a women's program.

From scratch it took him three years before he started to compete in second tier Nor-Am Cup and FIS events and just another 10 months before he was on the podium.

He was a modest 27th at his first World Cup at the start of 2009 but has gone on to make the 12-man final in the last three events.

"I knew from the start if I was going to make it, it would be a steep climb in skills so I trained really hard from the start with the Olympics in mind but knowing it might not be possible," he said.

"But I've achieved every goal, every year up till now and hopefully we can finish it off this year."

It's expected he'll become the first Australian men's Olympic freestyle aerialist since Jono Sweet, who gave the game away after a brutal landing saw him bomb out of the 1998 event in Nagano.

Australian Winter Olympics chief executive Geoff Lipshut said Morris' consistency had surprised a lot of people.

"David is a guy when he is under pressure operates really well," said Lipshut.

"When you talk about benchmarks and KPIs and all that kind of stuff David finds it all a bit daunting but when he is faced with `do it now or you are out' he is fantastic and he's shown that over the past three weeks."

Morris has learned plenty on the ski hill from the likes of Cooper and Lassila - and also how to survive in all female environment.

"I know when to walk away," he said with a chuckle.

A finals appearance in Vancouver is the realistic aim for the Melbourne-raised skier and he says he'll leave nothing at the top of the in-run if he gets there.

"It's unlikely people will win with easier tricks but that happened with the Chinese guy who did easier tricks really well at the last Olympics," Morris said of Xiaopeng Han, the surprise winner in Turin.

"If I can make the finals that is my gold medal and whatever happens, happens. If I get that I will pull out the bigger tricks."

That includes a quad twisting triple somersault which to date he has only tried on water ramps.

But it's the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia that could prove most interesting for Morris if he continues his extraordinary level of development.

With Cooper set to retire after the Games and Lassila unlikely to commit long term to the sport after Vancouver, Morris could find himself as the best credentialed Australian skier - perhaps even any discipline - at the next Games.

And that's not something he's shying away from.

"I have another four years to perfect another one or two skills, that's plenty of time to be up for gold medals and winning World Cups and things so it's all looking pretty good," he said.




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