If Lydia Lassila’s Olympic bronze was a win for the brave then David Morris’s silver was a success for the shrewd.
Aerial skier Morris played the percentages brilliantly on Monday night at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park to claim Australia’s third medal of the Sochi Winter Olympics.
Going first in the four-man final he put down a neat quad-twisting triple somersault (110.41 points) only to be blown away by Anton Kushnir (134.5) with a quin-twister the very next jump.
But the Belarusian’s high-end marker put the pressure on the two Chinese jumpers, Jia Zongyang (95.06) and Qi Guangpu (90) botching their landings to hand Morris the silver.
“I was actually surprised I made it in (the final) and the in last one (jump) I wasn’t super confident doing that skill; basically I just closed my eyes and waited for the ground to come,” he said.
But Morris was much more in control than that.
The beaming 29-year-old, who was fist-pumping and smiling from qualifying all the way through to his podium place, was reasoned from the get go.
His qualifying jump was “the best one I’ve done all year” and he came through in second but the real nerve-jangling came in the first final where he downgraded his jump in the hope of saving his better tricks for the last two finals.
“Strategically that was the right move and I was questioning at the time: do we really want to do this,” he admitted.
He was the last man to qualify for the eight-man final.
And he was the last man to qualify for the four-man final.
Yet it mattered little as he lifted again to take second spot in the decider.
It had been a remarkable journey for Morris, who for years was rejected by Australia’s Olympic Winter Institute because it had devised a program that had been running for more than a decade, exclusively designed for women.
But he persevered until he was accepted.
In 2010 he was 13th in Vancouver, missing out on the finals by one place, and he gave up the sport for a year after busting his hip and having what he described as an Olympic let down.
“I trained through it and kept jumping and it nearly ruined me,” he said of the injury.
“I came back, I wasn’t exactly welcomed back, but I worked my butt off, I started from the very very bottom of the field again and had to earn back every privilege that everyone gets and it was hard.”
And it was worth it.
He won his first World Cup event last season and finished it second in the world.
Morris said he was inspired by Lassila who attempted a jump never done before in competition in her Olympic final, just missing the landing to finish third.
OWI boss Geoff Lipshut, who admitted initially rejecting Morris, now happily sung his praises.
“That performance tonight, he didn’t have the same top range as the other guys but he did everything he possibly could and played it to perfection,” he said.
“When Anton unleashed the monster it meant that the Chinese had to just go for broke – and the rest is history.”