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Aerials team throwing big tricks no matter what

7 February 2018

FREESTYLE SKIING: Nothing can stop Australia’s freestyle aerial skiers from throwing their biggest tricks at PyeongChang 2018. Not weather, not pressure, and not fear.

After landing in South Korea on Tuesday, the team – made up of veteran Lydia Lassila, David Morris, Laura Peel, Samantha Wells and Danielle Scott – are excited about the week of competition ahead.

An intensive training camp in Ruka, Finland, over the past several weeks has put the squad in a strong position to compete for places in the Super 6 final, and even an Olympic medal.

David Morris, who will make his third Olympic appearance in PyeongChang, completed one of the most difficult tricks in freestyle aerial skiing just last week and he won’t be holding back from throwing it again in PyeongChang.

“It’s a medal winning jump, obviously landing is crucial but if I get into the top 6 there’s no way I’m not doing that skill,” Morris said.

The trick, a double full/double full/full – best described as three flips and five twists – has only ever been performed by three other athletes with Morris eager to be the fourth.

It’s with a sense of relief and accomplishment that Morris wants everyone to know he’s ‘peaking at the right time’, he’s ready to land the hardest skill he’s ever done and in reality, it was pretty easy.

“I’ve been ready for quite a while, I just had to man up and do it and it was easier than I thought it would be, but very very scary,” he said.

“I haven’t come all (that) way to just back down at the last minute. I think even if the weather’s not perfect, I’m still throwing that down.

“My coach is like ‘if there’s an opportunity to change it to an easier one maybe we’ll go easier’, I’m like ‘no’.

“I don’t feel like it’s dangerous to do anymore… if I’m in the super final obviously you’ve been landing and you’re on fire and there isn’t any reason why we wouldn’t do it after that so I wouldn’t have any hesitation.”

Morris’ courage and commitment is shared by the team, who come into PyeongChang with varied experience.

Peel made her Olympic debut at Sochi 2014 where she finished seventh, and since then has consolidated her performance.

“I still have the same basic self, same foundation (and) still the same beliefs but I feel a lot more prepared, a lot more confident, I’m more consistent with my tricks and there are a lot of similarities of course but now I feel more prepared and more myself and ready to go after it, “she said.

Teammate Scott is primed to perform a quadruple-twisting double somersault; she is the first Australian woman to complete the trick on snow.

“If I get to the round where I need it (I’ll do it) for sure,” she said.

“I think I was the first Aussie to do it on snow, but both Lydia and I have done it recently so it’s pretty exciting… I’ll definitely take advantage of being able to do that if I get the opportunity to.”

For Lassila, her tactics are a little different. She has four Winter Olympic Games on her CV already and after Sochi 2014 she even took a break from the sport.

However her passion and motivation for aerials didn’t weaken, nor did her body. And so she decided to line up again, putting herself in contention for a place on the Australian Olympic Team.

The dual Olympic medallist (gold Vancouver 2010, bronze Sochi 2014) recently claimed a first and a second place at Lake Placid World Cups in the United States, but she’s approaching things a little differently in her final Olympic campaign.

“Some athletes will go big which is really exciting, but it won’t be me. I’m kind of weening out so I’m on the double, which is a lot less stressful on my body and mind,” she said.

“(I’m) still competitive on the double… I’ve got some consistency there, I’ve got some experience there obviously.

“Anyone can make a mistake so my aim is to just keep consistent and not make any big mistakes.”

Second timer Wells said the secret to Australian freestyle skiers keeping their calm under pressure was nothing more than good old fashioned banter.

“It helps to keep it a bit lighter when things get a bit more stressful,” she said.

And in the end, it could come down to the conditions on the day. Morris has said he won’t be swayed by the weather, but for the majority of the field PyeongChang could prove to be one of the toughest challenges yet.

“Weather and wind is obviously a factor that this place is known for, and that does effect us so fingers crossed mother nature cooperates with us and I think it will be really good,” Scott said.

Freestyle skiing aerials starts with women’s qualifications on Day 6 (Thursday 15 February) with women’s finals on Day 7 (Friday 16 February) and men’s finals on Day 9 (Sunday 18 February).

Candice Keller

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