Lydia Lassila (Ierodiaconou) always believed she would possess an Olympic gold medal one day ... first as a gymnast, then during 10 years as a freestyle aerial skier. She was a gymnast for nine years before she followed a route first explored by Kirstie Marshall, Jacqui Cooper and Alisa Camplin- converting Gymnastic skills to Aerial Skiing. For Lassila, the journey to gold at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games wasn't easy - in fact it was sometimes painful, often frustrating.
Just two years after she first began to ski, she finished eighth at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. In 2006, after tearing her left knee in a water jump training accident, she underwent radical surgery to repair the anterior cruciate ligament. Just eight months later she went to the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics, a medal favourite. On her second jump she landed awkwardly, tearing the injured knee apart: it was a horrific injury, whose footage (with its accompanying, awful screams of pain) remains haunting years later.
Then came another knee reconstruction, extensive rehabilitation in 2007 and marriage to former Finnish moguls skier Lauri Lassila. After winning the 2009 World Cup, Lassila was the hot favourite for gold at the Vancouver 2010 Games. Placed second after the first round, she won gold with an audacious triple-twisting triple somersault. She was the Australian Flagbearer at the Closing Ceremony.
After the Vancouver Games, Lassila took time out of the sport to start a family, giving birth to her son Kai in May 2011. She returned to competition in December 2012, placing second in Changchun, China - her first World Cup competition in three years. He Sochi Olympic build-up looked strong when she won two medals from five World Cups in the 2013/14 pre-Olympic season.
Lassila landed in Sochi aiming to make history - no woman had ever defended their Olympic aerials title. The 32-year-old mother flew through the new finals format to reach the four-woman super-final. Rather than deliver a jump that she knew was achievable, but may have left her short of her gold medal target in the final, Lassila 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, her chances of securing back-to-back gold medals looked strong, but she was robbed of precious points with a precarious landing. The high degree of difficulty jump scored her 72.12 points and the bronze medal. 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 in training only days before the final. Her superb efforts launched her sport to a whole new level.