Things you will learn watching the documentary The Will To Fly. about Australian Olympian Lydia Lassila:
- When someone tears their ACL (the main ligament in your knee), they make a noise almost exactly like a squealing pig. It’s not a sound you want to hear again.
- Freestyle aerial skiing is absolutely terrifying. And incredibly difficult.
- When you are an elite athlete, little things like pregnancy, childbirth and child-rearing do NOT throw you off, even though no-one believes that but you.
Freestyle aerial skiers are the ones who ski down an enormous jump and then somersault through the air until they land, hopefully on their feet. The training to get really, really good at it takes you overseas for half the year, where you practice on enormous water slides. Then it takes you to far-flung, icy corners of the world chasing snow where you hone your craft.
It looks like this:
“When I first started the sport I just wanted to be the best female areal skier that ever lived, and I wanted to jump like the men,” says Lydia.
Her first year competing included the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. She placed 8th in the world. A year later she was number two.
“I got good fast not because I was talented, but because I was willing to go that distance – it’s like I had a diesel engine.”
Then, at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver she won gold.
And then… she had a baby.
How does it feel to go through labour when your job involves you risking your life daily? When your career has already seen you smash bones and tear muscles and claw your way back to competition level after being unable to walk?
Let Lydia tell you:
It feels… like it feels for all of us.
“I thought, having a baby, ‘I’ve got this… I’ve had four major knee surgeries, I’ve endured quite a lot… I’ve got this’,” says Lydia. “But… it just went to another level. It makes knee reconstructions a walk in the park.”
“People were constantly telling me life is going to change, you might feel different – and I thought yeah, fair enough, but I wanted to give it a good crack. We had a good support network so I could go back to training, like a lot of women going to work.”
Lydia went back to work – training for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. She started at the gym with Kai in tow, crawling around the treadmill and then working up to practising on snow, over and over, with her little boy watching her fall. It’s incredible to watch.
But not just content with going “back to work”, Lydia started working on a jump that no woman had ever done before: the quad twisting, triple somersault – Lydia calls it the “full-double-full-full”.
Did it pay off? You’re going to have to watch the movie (or, you know, Google it) to find out. But let’s just say, when Lydia’s standing on the medal dias with one other mum, you’ll feel like cheering.
Lydia has since gone on to have another son, Alec, and hasn’t ruled out the 2018 Winter Olympics.
“I haven’t retired yet – most people think that when you have a baby it’s retirement…but I don’t see motherhood as a good excuse to retire.”
Listen to the full interview with Lydia here: