Interview with Lydia Lassila.
An incredible true story of the Olympian skier.
Inspirational is only one word to describe the incredible true story of Lydia Lassila, Olympic winning freestyle aerial skier, mother of two and self created business entrepreneur of Body Ice after various knee procedures.
To watch, it’s an emotional trip to the edge unlikely not to draw streams of tears as the viewer relives highs and lows. The road to success for Lydia was hard fought appealing not just to sport afficionados but those who love remarkable tales.
Empowering documentary The Will to Fly looks at her determination from a child in rural Victoria to the unlikely journey to international slopes and everything in between including spectacular crashes resulting in crippling injuries to the joys of success holding Olympic Gold.
While currently not attempting any unmatched skyward twists, Lydia still skis for fun, yet to officially retire due to the hope of a large scale training facility on local shores.
It is clear talking to this humble, unique and a wonderful person, she still loves the sport and is proud of the movie. Just don’t mention her appearance on the now defunct television game show, A League of Their Own.
*Shane A. Bassett – How close are we to having a water training facility in Australia?
*Lydia Lassila – Pushing forward now as we’ve got Federal money support so waiting to see if NSW Government will chip in the money remaining to complete the project. It is a proposed big multipurpose facility not just for winter disciplines but summer disciplines also. We have our eyes on Lennox Head where a recreational area already exists that we could expand on. The US and Switzerland have just poured in millions of dollars into theirs and as our main competitors we can’t compete without proper training areas. I would love to go to a 5th Olympics but frustratingly can’t with two young boys and all the traveling for training involved.
SAB – Whose idea originally was it to bring your story to the screen?
LL – The previous aerial skier and gymnast Katie Bender really brought it to life encouraging me a couple of years before the Sochi Olympics. She studied film in LA working there for six years and came over to visit me and my baby Kai in Utah with the idea as I explained to her my goals of bending the boundaries of what had been done before, she saw a story in that. Katie merged her passion for sport into filming a documentary. Honestly, I didn’t think it would eventuate (laughs) being so engrossed in my Olympic campaign but she had a one track mind of determination such as myself and made it happen.
SAB – How’s your knee now?
LL – Good, no issues lately but haven’t been pounding it either. I’m in pretty good knick all round by being stranded from the ten months training overseas anymore.
SAB – What was the worst part of the Allograft procedure?
LL – Waiting, so tedious, you have a good few days then a bad day which is a set back. Juggling highs and lows that come with that. That aside, some of the injuries not documented in the film have been a lot more traumatising, they haven’t required surgery although all quite bad. All injuries are chronic. I’ve endured quite a bit as have my Olympic teammates.
SAB – Where do you keep your Olympic medals?
LL – Currently in a little case in my drawer, not on show at the moment. We are building a new house so maybe I’ll put them out then. I kind of travel with them in my bag doing speaking events and pass them around or pose with photos so others can enjoy them too.
SAB – Did competing in gymnastics as a young girl influence your flexibility into skiing?
LL – Certainly did help me transition across smoothly. Ironically, I was destined to do anything acrobatically having always enjoyed the thrill. Instilling that work ethic early then carrying it over to aerial skiing helped because most of the athletes involved were still freestyling not structured, kind of what snowboarders are now. They are evolving into their own style of athlete becoming more structured and disciplined such as freestyle skiing is now.
SAB – Financially, are things improving with sponsorship opportunities?
LL – No (laughs) probably getting worse since I started the sport. Around 52,000 was the most lucrative amount for us to gain support and entire sponsorship from private companies but nowadays that is proving most difficult. I have a bit of a theory that our heroes are not necessarily sports talent anymore, they are celebrity chefs, celebrity bloggers, celebrity renovators and so on. To me it’s changing, the athlete doesn’t have to just satisfy the sponsors anymore, they need a certain following. Got to be able to engage in their audience on social media or blogs so companies can get extra out of you. It’s hard and being an elite athlete is hard enough without being seen on TV as a celebrity ballroom dancer or whatever seems more value to them. Even trickier is most of our footage is IOC (International Olympic Committee) so can only be used by IOC partners narrowing down use of competition vision. Growing up, I would see athletes on the side of a cereal box or the general face of many brands, not so these days. You have My Kitchen Rules stars and the like to compete with, it never ends.
SAB – On the day of competition, what was your meal of choice if any?
LL – Something light, boiled eggs or porridge, avocado on toast or if a night event, grains, salad, a bit of pasta. Shakes are good too but you want to avoid the bathroom too much as there is a lot to get off.
SAB – How are you finding audience reaction to the film?
LL – Full on, I see people crying or shaking, it’s amazing that there is so much impact. Everything has been positive so far, I couldn’t be happier how the film is received. People keep asking where is it playing or when will it screen at my town, so hopefully more cinemas will come on board around the country.
SAB – Do you think The Will to Fly would transition from documentary to make a good motion picture, who would star as you?
LL – (laughs) Good question, that’s funny Shane. It would make a great film because little me who used to lock herself up in her bedroom doing push ups and sit ups would be hilarious. As for playing me, I don’t really know of any actresses of my stature and personality but i’d like to go with Catherine Zeta-Jones as a much prettier version that would make me feel fantastic (laughs).
SAB – How do you feel that your inspirational documentary is in cinemas alongside current blockbusters?
LL – Surreal to be honest, seeing the movie posters up alongside others such as Batman Vs Superman. I was nervous but now it’s exciting seeing first-hand the positive impact it’s having on people. Not only showcasing empowering women in sport, but empowering everybody who watches it. The whole family unit will enjoy something, laughs, tears, all the emotions are on show. That’s a credit to Co-Directors Katie and Leo Baker constructing a great depiction of what my career has been like, it’s all me.
SAB – Has that competitive streak remained inside you like when you’re at the supermarket to race trolleys around in variable maneuvers?
LL – You’re very funny, yes I hate being in lines waiting tapping my foot or even on the highway, I have that urgency to duck / weave to be out front. It’s something hard to let go at times.
SAB – Someone from the new brigade of skiers like Laura Peel for instance, are you approached for advice?
LL – They know I’m always there to help with anything. On the hill, I might be extremely focused and competitive, however off the hill, I’m a regular teammate. It’s a magnificent little crew at the moment showing lots of potential.
SAB – What is the business you run?
LL – Manufacture ice packs for injuries called Body Ice. I founded it after I blew my knee out because I couldn’t find a product that stayed in place or not leak all over or remain cold enough to help me recover from my knee injuries/surgeries. That year off was spent developing Body Ice getting it up and running in six months. It is a side venture adding balance to my life while also help fund many things I couldn’t fund before. I’m kind of glad I blew the knee out twice in six months (laughs). There’s always something positive squeezed out of a negative.
The Will to Fly is showing in selected cinemas (check listings). Rated G – 99 min.
Shane A. BassettSydney Unleashed is one of Australia’s premier entertainment publications exploring the latest in lifestyle trends. From Sydney’s finest restaurants, cafes and bars to the hottest in gadgets, products, and home entertainment, Sydney Unleashed is your one-stop lifestyle platform.