FREESTYLE – AERIALS: Australian freestyle skier David Morris has won a silver medal in the men’s aerials at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.
The dual Olympian was the first to jump in the super-final, doing a double-Full Full-Full (quad twisting somersault) to score 110.41.
“I was up there thinking this is the furthest I’ve ever got in the Olympic format before so I’m just going to throw it down and see what happens... and we got this!”
While he remained cool and focused under pressure, upon completion of the jump Morris fell to the ground in elation as his family in the stands erupted in celebration.
“I thought that was a spectacular super final and it was a privilege to be a part of that.”
Three-time Olympian Anton Kushnir from Belarus went for the highest scoring jump possible – the Back Double Full-Full-Double Full (five twisting somersault) – to score an incredible 134.50 and take gold.
Reigning World Champion Qi Guangpu (CHN) went for the same jump but failed to land it cleanly, skidding down the hill on his backside, scoring 90.00, coming fourth.
His teammate and 2013 World Cup number one Jia Zongyang was the last to jump, doing a Back Full-Triple Full-Full, but somersaulted the landing, to score 95.06 and claim bronze.
The men's super-final was the same make-up as the women's: two Chinese skiers, one Belarusian and one Australian.
Morris jumped strongly throughout the finals phase, but was the last to qualify in each: final 1 (placing 8th) and final 2 (placing 4th).
“I snuck in which is fine. And then did a quad twist to get into the super-final, which was amazing. I’m actually surprised I made it in. The last one, I wasn’t super confident doing that skill, I basically just closed my eyes and waited for the ground to come and it was right in front of me.
“I’ve never nailed four jumps in a row like that before. That’s actually the first time I’ve got through that format before. I’ve always got booted out in the 8-4 or 12-8 finals."
After the high point of finishing 13th at the Vancouver Olympics Morris hit a real low point in 2011 and walked away from the sport. He injured his hip and had to have surgery.
“I came back from the surgery but I wasn’t prepared for the Olympic hype and the downfall after that. I wasn’t an experienced athlete and I wasn’t prepared for the injury and the rehab and it really got to me and I basically took a year off but I walked away and said I wasn’t coming back.
“I took the time off and decided I wasn’t finished. I worked my butt off started back from the very very bottom of the field again and had to work my way back and earn back every privilege.
“When I quit I was in a very bad spot but I think it was the right decision to not take the attention away from the Team when I was very demanding and angry all the time.
Morris came back to be 2nd in the world last season (2012/13) and sixth in the world leading into these Games.
Australia’s medal tally now stands at two silver (Torah Bright in the women’s Halfpipe) and one bronze (Lydia Lassila in the women’s Aerials).
Lassila was one of the first to congratulate Morris.
“She set the bar pretty high and I just had to take it a little bit further didn’t I!” he said laughing.
“She’s done well she’s got two Olympic medals I’m so proud of her I can’t even describe.
“I’ve always looked up to her she is an amazing role model on and off the hill. She gave me some good advice to stay in the moment and not think too far ahead and calm down.
“I was very proud of what she achieved the other day and now she is very proud of me. Go Team!”
Olympic Winter Institute of Sport Chief Executive Officer Geoff Lipshut who is credited as being the driving force behind the very successful Australian Aerial Skiing program was thrilled the result.
“Dave has put in a remarkable effort. I mean that performance tonight he didn’t have the same big end top range as the other guys but he did everything he possibly could and played it perfectly. He executed every time and he didn’t make a mistake.”
“When Anton unleashed the monster it meant the Chinese had no option but to respond and the rest is history."
Lipshut credited the OWIA staff in head coach Cord Spero, pyschologist Barbara Meyer and aerials Team Manager Alana Rybicki for adjusting the women's program to suit Morris. And for the wonderful person and athlete Morris is.
“Dave is just a remarkable character. If you meet him he is so exuberant and he embraces everything about being on the Olympic Team. His moment in the sun as an Olympian has been the highlight of his life. So Vancouver was his highlight and clearly now Sochi is his highlight.
And you know that’s who Dave is. His parents wear green and gold everywhere his brother wears green and gold and you know they met him at the (Sochi) airport and they are here supporting him and this is just a fairytale ending.”