‘I’m really happy. I’m sorry I’m crying, but it’s joy. It’s happiness. It was my maximum effort': Australia’s Lydia Lassila. Photo: AP
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Almost an hour after claiming bronze in the aerial freestyle final, Lydia Lassila could not stop the tears streaming down her face.
To be able to do that trick in the super final was something.
She had gone into her last jump of the night, in the super final, trying to become the first woman to land the quad-twisting triple somersault.
Standing tall: Silver medalist Xu Mengtao of China (left), gold medalist Alla Tsuper of Belarus (centre) and bronze medalist Lydia Lassila. Photo: Getty Images
If she had landed it, she would’ve won gold and defended her Olympic title won in Vancouver.
Death or glory. All or nothing.
While she was perfect in the air, she wasn’t in the landing, slapping down on her back.
‘My calendar stopped at the 14th of February': Bronze medalist Lydia Lassila with her husband Lauri. Photo: Getty Images
Yet Lassila, who had squeezed in the birth of a son since the last Olympics, still walked away with glory nonetheless.
“Sorry … I really went for it guys,” she said, trying to control her emotions. “I’m really happy. I’m sorry I’m crying, but it’s joy. It’s happiness. It was my maximum effort.
“To be able to do that trick in the super final was something. I’ve left my mark forever, and made history with that trick. It would’ve been great to land it, but I was stretching for my life. It’s been an amazing journey until now.”
Belarus veteran Alla Tsuper was the surprise winner, having been the only one of the last four to land perfectly.
China’s world champion Xu Mengtao took silver on the last jump of the night, while the favourite, Nina La also of China, crashed spectacularly to miss out on a medal.
Under the new sudden-death format for these games, with three stages of finals held, merely landing almost means more than the trickery in the air.
As far as Lassila was concerned, though, the colour of the medal didn’t matter.
She had made it clear late last year that landing the quad-twisting triple would mean more.
When she landed the trick in training on Tuesday, she created history because no female competitor had done it before.
She knew then that she would have it in her back pocket for the final jump of the night, should she make the final.
“That was the plan,” she said. “It was really an all-or-nothing approach. I had nothing to lose. It was just an amazing opportunity for me to do that.
“These Olympics were more about me reaching my potential as an aerial skier. I’ve wanted to do that trick for 15 years. I saw the guys at Mount Buller doing it at a World Cup in 1999, and I was just mesmerised. I couldn’t ski yet, but I thought, ‘I want to jump like a guy. I want to do that trick’. It’s been a long journey ever since. I’ve been trying my whole career to do that. It was really important for me to realise that.”
The question now is whether Lassila will stay on for a record fifth Olympics, something former leading aerial freestyle skier Jacqui Cooper had done, although she never won a medal in the most brutal of winter sports.
Lassila said she didn’t know, although there were indications behind the scenes that she would stay around until she landed her groundbreaking trick in some form of competition.
“My calendar stopped at the 14th of February,” Lassila said. “We need to get through this. I’ll calm down and talk to my husband and we’ll make that decision together.”
Earlier, Lassila had crashed on her first jump of the day but recovered to reach the final 12 alongside teammates Laura Peel and Danielle Scott.
She then hurt her knee in training before the super final.
“With these super finals, it’s a hard day, it’s a tough format,” she said. “We’re all exhausted in the end. You see three out of four people crashing, it doesn’t look great.”