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Lydia Lassila claims Aerials Bronze

17 February 2014

Lydia Lassila has attempted a jump only men perform, in a brave bid to defend her Olympic aerial skiing title at the Sochi Olympic Winter Games.

The courageous 32-year-old went for a quad twisting triple somersault with a degree of difficulty (DD) of 4.425 in Final 3, when only four women were jumping for three medals.

Lassila, who had landed the jump only once here in training, executed brilliantly in the air but slapped the landing and fell to the side for a score of 72.12 points to secure the bronze.

Alla Tsuper of Belarus won the gold with a score of 98.01 for a fantastic triple somersault. World champion Xu Mengtao of China won the silver with a score of 83.50.

Lassila who hyper-extended her knee during warm-up tonight was understandably very proud of what she had achieved.

“I really went for it. I’m really happy. I’m sorry I’m crying – it’s joy, it’s happiness,” the four-time Olympian said.

“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.

“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.

“The thing is with these super-finals, it’s a really long day, it’s a really hard format and we’re all exhausted by the end and if you can just make it through to that super-final it’s a massive achievement.”

At Tsuper’s fifth Olympic Games, the 34-year-old was the only competitor in the medal round to have landed clean meaning her back-Full-Full-Full, with a DD of 4.050, could not be beaten.

She started the medal round and increased the pressure on the other ladies as the crowd erupted with her excellent jump. In her first jump of the day she had a big crash but then her day improved and she kept the pressure on her competitors with huge consistent jumps.

Li Nina, who has won silver at the past two Olympics, went next in the super-final and fell heavily attempting a triple somersault with a DD of 3.9, for a low score of 46.02.

Lassila followed as the chants of Aussie, Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi filled the stands. She was so focussed on her quad she didn’t know that Li had fallen and she never considered downgrading her jump.

The mother from Melbourne had an ‘all or nothing’ approach to defending her Olympic title. Either way she was creating history. No woman has ever attempted a quad trick before in competition and no woman has ever defended their Olympic crown. Unfortunately the fairytale ending didn’t eventuate at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park. As soon as Lassila missed the landing she knew her Olympic title defence was over.

World Champion Xu Mengtao was the last to jump for gold. She had landed perfectly all competition but put her hands down on her triple somersault (DD 4.175) and registered 72.12 points. 

The 23-year-old also fell on her final jump in Vancouver four years ago. She then went on to dominate the World Cup circuit for three years but had to settle for silver at Sochi.

China has won more Aerials medals at the Games than any other nation with five but never gold.

Australia’s aerial skiing medal run started with Alisa Camplin’s gold in 2002, then bronze to Camplin in 2006, then Lassila repeated the same podium finishes in 2010 and 2014.  

Lassila is now also credited with taking the sport to the next level.

“I hope to be remembered more for the trick that I did today rather than my gold,” Lassila said at the post-event press conference.

“It means a lot to me and I hope people remember it for a long time to come.

“I stuck to the plan and did difficult jumps right through to the super-final. It was an extremely strong final 4.

Lassila showed why she is so popular with teammates and competitors. 

“I’m so happy for Alla. I love this girl. She's a great competitor and she has continued to push herself as well. We are both mums. She is so deserving of this medal.”

Tsuper did not reach the podium in her four previous participations in this event, in 1998 (5th), 2002 (9th), 2006 (10th) and 2010 (8th). At the age of 34 years and 304 days, she is the oldest medallist in any freestyle skiing event. And she is the second gold medallist from Belarus in freestyle skiing after Alexei Grishin won gold in men's aerials in 2010.

Laura Peel, Danielle Scott and Samantha Wells all jumped really well at various times in the tactical competition but did not have the same difficulty in tricks of some of their competitors.

Peel ended the day was a fantastic seventh place. She fell on her first jump to be 13th (67.68) after qualification 1, then finished third in qualification 2 (85.99). In final 1 she was fifth (83.79) and then seventh in final 2 when she back slapped on landing (64.50).

“I missed that one, but I’m psyched to watch Lydia in the final,” Peel said.

“We go out there and try to do the same thing every time. The crowd and the atmosphere are different,” Peel said of the Olympic Games.

Scott was very unlucky to not progress to the top 8. She was ranked third after qualification 1 and in Final 1 she had the same score as eighth but was relegated on a count-back to ninth (76.23). She bent her knees slightly to land her jump and that cost her. 

The World Championship bronze medallist was disappointed to not execute a better final jump to progress.

“I just needed a little bit more speed and I could have stayed straight, could have gone higher, but that’s the game, you can’t do much when that happens. I’m happy I landed.”

Samantha Wells on Olympic debut finished in 18th. She just missed progressing straight to final 1, when ranked seventh in her first jump but in qualification 2 she missed her landing and was ranked 12th.

The bronze medal joins Lassila’s gold from Vancouver 2010 and follows silver to Torah Bright in Sochi two days ago. Lassila, Bright Dale Begg-Smith and Steven Bradbury are the multiple medallists for Australia at the Winter Olympics.

Australia has now won six medals in all freestyle skiing events, one more medal than it has won in all other winter sports combined.