Imagine you had been lobbying for something for six years and the moment had finally come – the big announcement that your hard work had paid off and it was happening. Imagine you’re all set to be there and then your flight is cancelled, you’re re-routed to another city, have to hire a car and drive for two hours knowing that the moment will have passed, you’re missing it. Disappointed? This is exactly the circumstance Lydia Lassila, aerial skier and Olympic gold medallist, was going through when I spoke to her. Lucky she is a master at overcoming disappointment and rising above barriers.
The announcement in question was the NSW government promising to build a water ramp in Lennox Heads specifically for aerial skiers to train. Lydia says this will enable aerial skiers to rise to the next level making them even more competitive on the international stage. It will potentially help her achieve a ticket to her fifth Olympics and it’s just one example of the ways in which Lydia seeks to leave a legacy for those who follow.
Lydia Lassila is the author of The Will to Fly, an autobiography which chronicles her journey from gymnast to world champion and gold medal winning aerial skier. The book is now a movie which screened at the Gold Coast Arts Centre on Saturday 18th June with a Q & A session with Lydia after. I got the jump on everyone and chatted to her about the change in direction, the book and movie, her current dreams and aspirations and what it takes to be an Olympic champion.
What was the injury that caused the change from gymnast to aerial skier?
I had ankle and wrist injuries. The wrist was so bad that I could hardly open a door knob. Any time off is really crucial in gymnastics and it was coming up to the 1998 Commonwealth Games, I was losing out of time and it was even going to be a long shot for Sydney. At that point it was the hardest decision of my life!
How did you pull yourself up from that disappointment, the loss of your lifelong dream?
It was brutal, really depressing. I was also heading into my VCE (Victorian High School Certificate), which was a pretty important time in my teenage years. I had that feeling that gymnastics wasn’t going to work out but maybe another sport would. I thought about water sports like surfing, iron woman or triathlon because I enjoyed those and I grew up on the surf coast of Victoria, it seemed like a good fit. Then the skiing opportunity came up.
Would you consider another sport shift?
(laughing) I’m too old for that!! I’m really getting into my surfing again now but more for recreation.
When and why did you write the book?
I wrote a book after the 2010 (Vancouver) Olympics, I just added crucial moments in between then and Sochi (2014) and repackaged it as ‘The Will to Fly.’ I actually wrote it for me, it was almost cleansing to go through all those events that led to now. I really enjoyed the process.
I think people expect it to be a ski movie/sport doco or to be really dry. It’s more than that. It really covers a range of issues from gender equality in sport to the power of your own will and tenacity.
The Will To Fly book is currently available for purchase. Click here for more information about the documentary.