‘Sometimes you have to push beyond what people believe is possible.’ Lydia Lassila – Olympic athletes interviewed Episode 85
Meet the women who wanted to prove, that women can do the same amazing sporting feats as men.
Lydia Lassila, Olympic champion 2010 shares how she was favorite to win the Olympic title in 2006 and ended up in a disaster. Why she wanted to prove that women can do the same amazing feats as men, why she wants to push beyond what people believe is possible, and how she learned to control her mindset.
Furthermore, we discuss
- What the sport of Aerials freestyle skiing is
- What does it take to perform and land a quad twisting triple somersault
- Her darkest moment
- Her difficult preparation towards the Torino 2006 Olympics
- The challenges in her gymnastics career
- How she went from beginner skier to Olympian in less than two years
- Her best moment
- Her motivation to achieve greatness
- Her next challenges
- How to manage multiple responsibilities
- Her advice to a younger Lydia Lassila
- How to manage risk
- Her success habits
- Her morning routine
- How to prepare for important moments
- How to make the last few seconds before a jump count
- How she was with the back against the wall before her last jump to secure the Olympic title
- How to overcome setbacks
- How she was ranked number two in the world for six years before you became number one in the world
- Her role model
- The best advice she has received
- The story behind her book and movie “The Will to Fly”
- A typical training day in the life of an Aerial Freestyle skier
- Her motivation to start her company Body Ice
- Her interview nomination
- What’s going on in the life of Lydia Lassila at this moment
- Where can you find Lydia Lassila
Christian: In this interview, I’m joined by Lydia Lassila. Lydia is a quintuple Olympian, which is five Olympic participations, amongst the greatest achievement, Olympic Champion 2010, bronze medalist at the 2014 Olympic Games, 18 World Cup gold medals, 16 World Cup silver medals, and 10 World Cup bronze medals.
Lydia: Thank you. Thanks for the invitation.
What is the sport of Aerials freestyle skiing
Christian: Lydia, you participated in the sport of aerials? Can you explain in a few words what that sport is about?
Lydia: Freestyle aerial skiing is basically skiing into a big icy jump at about 60 to 70 kilometers per hour. I used to get the biggest size jump, which is the triple kicker. So then you launch your body off the triple kicker and hopefully, you do three flips with multiple twists.
Freestyle aerial skiing is basically skiing into a big icy jump at about 60 to 70 kilometers per hour, then you launch your body off into the air and hopefully, you do three flips with multiple twists.
You then try and land and ski away on your feet. It’s quite a busy sport. There is not that much time in the air, but we go very high and it’s quite a high risk.
What does it take to perform and land a quad twisting triple somersault
Christian: What does it take to perform and land a quad twisting triple somersault?
Lydia: With the quad twisting triple somersault, there’s a lot going on in that trick. Every jump, you’re in the air for about three seconds, and you’re doing three flips with four twists. So, it’s really important to have the right takeoff off the jump, the right speed, and the weather has to be right.
You have to then read where you are in the air correctly and be able to spot the landing to be able to ski away. There are so many technical things happening and at the same time, you are dealing with fear. You’re also dealing with variables that you can’t really control, which is like the weather.
- check out this triple twisting triple somersault by Lydia (I couldn’t find the quad twisting triple somersault, which has 1 twist more)
Christian: Just for clarification, that is a sporting feat that has never been done before by a woman until you did it, and it has been considered not possible for women, right?
Lydia: Yes, when I first started the sport in 2000, women were light years away from ever being able to do a quad twisting triple somersault. It was just thought that no one was going to be able to get there, and I had a bit of a problem with that.
I wanted to prove that it was possible, so it was nice to be the first woman to do it. Since then, one other woman from the U.S., Ashley Caldwell, has completed it as well. So, that’s good and I hope there’s many more to come.
When I first started the sport, women were light years away from ever being able to do a quad twisting triple somersault. It was just thought that no one was going to be able to get there, and I had a bit of a problem with that. I wanted to prove that it was possible, so it was nice to be the first woman to do it.
Christian: It’s impossible until it’s done right?
Lydia: Correct. It’s like that four-minute mile. You think it’s impossible, and then it’s done and then 20 or 30 other people are doing it in a matter of months. Sometimes you have to push beyond what people believe is possible.
Sometimes you have to push beyond what people believe is possible.
Her darkest moment
Christian: In your life as an athlete, what was your darkest moment?
Lydia: The injuries were the darkest moments. I had a period of time where I had significant injuries in my lower back to the point where I had a cyst growing in there. It was causing lots of pain and numbness down one side, it was quite scary. And I’ve had prolapsed discs in my back.
Concussions are very scary and horrible and really mess with your confidence. At one point as well, I had two blown-out knees in the space of six months. So I had lots of surgery and lots of setbacks along the way.
Injuries are a time where it really does shake your confidence, but it also highlights what you want. Obviously for me, it was a point in time where I still really wanted to achieve my goals, and I fully believed that I could get there.
Injuries really do shake your confidence, but it also highlights what you want. I still really wanted to achieve my goals, and I fully believed that I could get there.
Through that injury period, I used that time to improve things like my mental gain and other aspects of my life so that I could come back to the sport a lot stronger and balanced.
Her difficult preparation towards the Torino 2006 Olympics
Christian: I read you were the favorite to win the Olympic title in 2006 and then what happened?
Lydia: Yes, I was looking good already. I was early in my career and I was already winning World Cups and doing triple somersaults. That is the direction that I wanted to take, going for the more difficult jumps, even though you didn’t have to do that to win at the time, I wanted to go there.
I was looking pretty good in the summer before we were training in Lake Placid in the US. I had an accident where I caught an edge on the water amps. This is where we train in the summertime, into a swimming pool off artificial jumps.
My knee kind of twisted 90 degrees up the jump and I blew my ACL six months before the Olympics. It was a real shock to the system. It is obviously not what you want leading into an Olympic Games where you’re trying to do the hardest tricks women had done before.
I blew my ACL six months before the Olympics. It was a real shock to the system. It is obviously not what you want leading into an Olympic Games where you’re trying to do the hardest tricks women had done before.
That was a real fight. I had to come back and have some radical surgery and give myself the best chance to make it for those Olympics. I ended up having an ACL reconstruction, but not a traditional one.
It was one where they used a donor graft. It was called an allograph, so an Achilles tendon was put in my knee as my ACL. I rehabbed and worked really hard and made it back in time for the Torino 2006 Olympics and was looking really good.
I did one World Cup before and I won it. I thought that I was back on track. It was not ideal preparation, but I was back where I left off. In the semifinals at the Olympics, I was just one jump away from the finals, my leg gave out and re-tore that ACL in my knee.
That was a terrible moment. My world came crashing down on me. As any athlete would know, injuries are always unwelcomed and that couldn’t have been at a worse time.
In the semifinals at the Olympics, I was just one jump away from the finals, I re-tore that ACL in my knee. That was a terrible moment. My world came crashing down on me.
Christian: In that period, after the 2006 Olympics and towards the 2010 Olympics, did you feel like throwing in the towel?
Lydia: No, I didn’t. I remember very shortly after blowing my knee and thinking that it was going to be a long road back because I’ve had multiple surgeries to fix it. I knew the road was going to be long and difficult, but I didn’t want to give in.
I knew the road was going to be long and difficult, but I didn’t want to give in. I knew that I could still achieve the things that I wanted to achieve.
I didn’t want to let that end my career because I knew that I hadn’t achieved my potential yet. I knew that I could get my knee better and still achieve the things that I wanted to achieve. I just didn’t want to quit on that.
I really believed that I’d come back, but it wasn’t easy. Obviously, you got the physical injury and building back your muscle and everything. Then you have the mental injury and the trauma that you also have to get over.
- Also check out the interview ‘Belief, work ethic, and surround yourself with good people.’ with double Olympic champion Maris Strombergs, who outlines how difficult the mental recovery is, and how much longer the mental recovery takes.
Finally, the fear of re-injury is always on your mind as well. I had to work hard physically, but also mentally to be able to have the skills to be able to work through those things.
The challenges in her gymnastics career
Christian: When I did my research, I read your first career was in gymnastics. However, I couldn’t really put all the pieces together. I read something like missed opportunities. I read something about conspiracies. What happened?
Lydia: Conspiracies, that’s the first I’ve heard. It was rather boring, really. I started off in gymnastics and I thought that was the road that I was going to take as a lot of young gymnasts and it didn’t work out.
I wasn’t able to go to the right training centers at the right time. I wasn’t allowed to join the elite program, which is the only way to get to the Olympics in Australia. It’s a bit of a different system to the US.
It just was missed opportunities really there, that I had the talent and I had obviously the right ingredients to be an Olympic gymnast. It is just that you can’t miss opportunities and training at the right centers and under the right coaching because it makes all the difference.
I did well in my career, but I didn’t do as well as I probably could have. As you grow, you get more injured, and it just wasn’t working. So, I decided to stop and call it quits and try something else.
I wasn’t sure if I’d like anything else, but as soon as I started to ski and that opportunity came up. I really loved it straight away. I’d never skied before. I didn’t grow up skiing and so I began and really enjoyed the sport and the challenge that it was.
It was really exciting and thrilling to be able to be immersed in this foreign world. The winter culture was completely different to me, so I loved it straight away. It was highlighted straight away that it wouldn’t have mattered what sport I was in.
It was highlighted straight away that it wouldn’t have mattered what sport I was in, whether it was a Summer or the Winter Olympics, as long as I went to and won one of those.
It was the process of being an athlete really is what I’ve always loved. Whether it was a Summer or the Winter Olympics, it didn’t really matter to me as long as I went to and won one of those was the aim.
How she went from beginner skier to Olympian in less than two years
Christian: From the moment you started, in less than two years, you made it to the Olympics, is that correct?
Lydia: I started skiing the end of 1999 and then by the Salt Lake City, 2002 Olympics, which are in February of 2002, I was competing there. I spent a year learning how to ski and then a year jumping and bang, I was qualified and already competing at the Olympics.
No one really knew who I was. I came from nowhere and ended up making the finals in Salt Lake City and finished eighth place. This was a big shock and surprise, I guess to everyone, but for me, it was exactly what I wanted to do.
I came from nowhere and ended up making the finals at the Salt Lake City Olympics and finished eighth place. This was a big shock and surprise to everyone, but for me, it was exactly what I wanted to do.
I went in thinking I would win, so I was prepared to take huge risks when I first started the sport and it meant that I got good really fast. However, it also meant that I got a lot of injuries and probably pushed way harder than I should have at that time.
Her best moment
Christian: What was your best moment?
Lydia: There’s been a lot, but definitely winning a gold medal at the Olympic Games is right up there, especially after what I had gone through to get there. I’d come up two knee reconstructions and people didn’t think I’d come back at all and I won doing triple somersaults.
I didn’t play it safe and I didn’t do it easy. I didn’t back down. I still pushed and did things that I really wanted to, so definitely Olympic gold.
Winning a gold medal at the Olympic Games is right up there, especially after what I had gone through to get there, and I won doing triple somersaults. I didn’t play it safe, I didn’t do it easy and I didn’t back down.
The bronze medal at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games was equally amazing because that was when I did the quad twisting triple somersault in the Super Final. It was the same thing again. I could have done an easier jump to secure a gold medal. I could have done one that I’d done more consistently, or do the quad twisting triple, which I’d only done twice in my whole life.
I took a big risk, but I’m glad I did it because I wasn’t sure at that time if I’d ever get another opportunity and if I didn’t, I’d probably regret it. So, that bronze medal felt like gold. I was inches away from landing it very cleanly, but there’s always something undone in any athlete’s career unless you are Roger Federer. He’s just perfect.
Christian: If you would look at it like this, he has an Olympic gold medal in the doubles, not in the singles yet. so there’s still something for him to achieve.
Lydia: Ah, so there’s something undone, good. I’m not alone.
Her motivation to achieve greatness
Christian: I read on your website, “Winning an Olympics was always important to me, but going for greatness in a sport and doing something that no one had ever done before, was more important to me”. Where did this motivation come from?
Lydia: I think it’s always been there. If I wanted to be the most consistent and have the most World Cup wins, I would have done tricks that I knew I could land cleanly all the time, week in, week out and a lot of athletes do that.
But for me, I was always pushing. I was always trying to push the envelope and do something harder and test myself. I’m not sure where that came from.
I’ve enjoyed being on that fine line of being comfortable pushing the envelope to be uncomfortable. Some people would call that stupid and crazy, but for me, it was quite fulfilling.
Over time, I’ve enjoyed being on that fine line of being comfortable pushing the envelope to be uncomfortable and seeing your target come through. Some people would call that stupid and crazy, but for me, it was quite fulfilling because I know that I got to my potential.
Her next challenges
Christian: How does that play out now when you transition out of your career. What will be the next challenges?
Lydia: I did a lot whilst I was an athlete. In that year that I had off, after the disaster at the Torino Olympics, I started up my own business. I rehabbed that year and I spent a year out of the sport and developing myself mentally and physically.
I also started my company, “Body Ice” then, and it came out of my own necessity, as I was struggling to find a product that I could ice with effectively that would just stay on my knee, stay cold, stay in place and it would give me the compression that I needed and the product didn’t exist in Australia.
After the disaster at the Torino Olympics, I started up my company, “Body Ice”, and it came out of my own necessity, as I was struggling to find a product that I could ice with effectively. I wanted to fulfill my need and I figured that there were a lot of other people that were in the same position.
I flew home from those Olympics and I had the idea and I said that I would do it. Actually on the plane, because I couldn’t sleep because every time I close my eyes, that nightmare of blowing my knew just kept on replaying.
I got my journal out that I normally write in. I started sketching the very first concepts of what would be “Body Ice”, which were joint-specific ice packs that would not leak, that would stay in place and that would stay cold and give me that natural pain relief that I wanted.
I kind of stuck my teeth into that. It was a really good distraction. It was a product that I really believed in and I went for it and I had it up and running in six months.
So what that gave me in that year off was balance, because I had some perspective outside of sport. I started studying again, I had a degree in applied science, but that wasn’t going to help me start a business.
- Also check out the interview ‘Confront yourself with your doubts!’ with 2010 Olympic champion Mark Tuitert , who also outlines the importance of finding balance in the rehab process.
I started studying business online and just picking the subjects that I wanted to learn in. I didn’t want to have a degree or anything. I just wanted to learn how to run a business and so that’s what I did.
I spent my time building “Body Ice” in that year off and then I went back to sport a year later and I was rehabilitated. I had a business that was already making a profit, and that gave me a lot of balance.
Whereas before I was really one-track-minded, where I just wanted to be the athlete and didn’t really have anything else that I was focusing on. That gave me also financial security and for a lot of Olympic sports, you don’t necessarily have that.
You have an Olympics every four years where you have increased in maybe finances if you’re lucky, but if you’re in the top three in the world. That’s not something that is consistent. It’s not something you can rely on. Sponsors are never certain.
“Body Ice” was and that was really amazing that I think back now, that I had no fear of starting a business at all, because I knew exactly what I wanted. I wanted to fulfill my need and I figured that there were a lot of other people that were in the same position.
I remember walking into my knee surgeon’s office with a “Body Ice” strapped onto my knee. The container had already landed and I had the product. I had no idea how I was going to sell it.
I walked into his office and he asked what was on my knee. I told him it was “Body Ice”, my new business. I explained that it is ice and heat packs that don’t fall and don’t leak and they stay cold and they stay in place.
He then made an order for 500 of them. I found my target market pretty quickly in orthopedic surgeons and I haven’t looked back. Every experience I’ve had in life has led to new product ranges.
I became a mother after the 2010 Olympics and realized that there was the need for recovery icepacks, post-childbirth. That was the start of my Body Ice Woman Range, which is really a popular range.
My babies turned into toddlers and they were always bumping and hurting themselves. They needed that instant comfort from cold therapy, but something that wasn’t very scary, so I created “Body Ice Kids’ Range.”
After that, I suffered some back injuries and coming back to the sport as a mother and started heavily into yoga. Now that’s inspired my next range called “Zone”. It’s all these experiences and things that have really helped me recover, and in life and just in general, live better that I bring to my business and try to just solve problems that I have myself that will serve other people.
So it’s been really fun. I’ve always had the business side and that’s given me other things to think about whilst being an athlete, which has given me balance. It also gave me then a really nice pathway to transition into after sport, which for me has been quite seamless.
I’ve always had the business side and that’s given me other things to think about whilst being an athlete, and it also gave me then a really nice pathway to transition into after sport.
I was an athlete at one time and at the same time, I was a mom of two boys and I was running a business. I was doing all three of those things, so coming into life after sport, everything was already there for me that I could just slip straight into.
How to manage multiple responsibilities
Christian: That was what was going on in my head now, you have so many responsibilities. How do you do that in terms of time management?
Lydia: It was difficult. You have to prioritize things and I tried to travel as much as I could with my family. So I’d bring my boys, my husband, grandparents or a nanny along. They could then help me take care of the kids that had to be looked after whilst I was training and competing.
I built a team around “Body Ice” to make sure that things were looked after if I was away. I was still managing things on the side of wherever I was in the world.
At the same time, I was making sure that all the logistics and everything was sorted on the ground here in Australia and had a good team that didn’t need me breathing down their neck that would just get things done. That was really important to have that setup.
Then I had a really supportive team for me as an athlete, and that’s the medical staff and the psychologists and coaches that really understood the different facets of my life and the responsibilities.
It was a matter of just juggling and shifting around priorities and just trying to focus on one thing at a time, that I didn’t become overwhelmed. If you think about all of those things at once, you’re not going to be able to do anything properly.
It was a matter of priorities and focus on one thing at a time. If you think about all of those things at once, you’re not going to be able to do anything properly.
When I was Lydia, the athlete, out on the jumping hill, I knew that emails could wait and that the kids were being looked after. They totally have all their needs met, I could then just focus on me being the athlete.
When you come home and you’re mom again, you forget about training and you spend time with the kids. If you dedicate a couple of hours towards business, then everything else has to stop as well and you focus on that.
So it’s just shifting one thing at a time, not trying to do everything at once is how I managed that, but you can do it. You just need good support around you.
Christian: Well, you did prove that it is possible, isn’t it?
Lydia: It’s possible.
Her advice to a younger Lydia Lassila
Christian: If you could travel back in time, 10, 15, maybe 20 years, what advice would you give a younger Lydia?
Lydia: That’s a good one. What I didn’t have was that good team around me when I first started. I didn’t really have much of a mentor and so I was left to my own devices and I rushed things. I took big risks that I probably shouldn’t. I jumped through pain, which made the injuries I had even worse.
When I first started I didn’t have a good team around me when I didn’t have a mentor and was left to my own devices. I rushed things, I took big risks that I probably shouldn’t.
So it was always about t training harder, but I should have just trained smarter. That’s something that I would tell my younger self.
How to manage risk
Christian: Talking about risk. I saw in the movie when you became a mom, you said you have to manage risks better, but still you did the amazing feat after you have been a mom. So you took the biggest risk after that.
Lydia: Managing risk for me is important. I’m in aerial skiing, and over the years, I’ve developed some really good skills and experiences. You really have to tap into that to then manage risks. So my fundamentals are very good.
Managing risk for me is important. Over the years, I’ve developed some really good skills and experiences, you really have to tap into that to then manage risks.
My experience is high and so when you have a day, maybe the weather is bad, or maybe I’m not feeling a hundred percent, or maybe something’s hurting in my body, or I’m not feeling confident, that’s when you have to manage risk. That’s where you have to say that you are not doing it today or it can wait.
Maybe you just make a smart decision on when to push and when to pull back and I became a lot better at that later in my career. Whereas earlier, I would have just pushed and never really thought about it and would have gone for it. Becoming a mom and having that more experience really makes you, not question decisions, but think about them and make smarter decisions.
Christian: I can relate to that. I’m not a mom, but I have kids.
Lydia: Sure, you’re a parent.
Her success habits
Christian: What are the habits that make you a successful person or athlete?
Lydia: I’ve always had a really good idea, like a vision of where I wanted to go. I always knew my direction and that was really clear in sport.
I’ve always had a really good idea of where I wanted to go. I always knew my direction and that was really clear in sport.
It’s probably not as clear in the business right now, but I am coming close. I know the products that I want to develop and the need that they’re going to fulfill and that’s really clear. What’s not clear is then figuring out how to do that on the way and how to do that successfully in the planning and that’s just planning.
That was a skill that I didn’t start off very good at all. I knew the goal, but I didn’t have really the strategy and the plan. There was that period between 2006 and 2010 when I was injured and I got really good at that.
I got really detailed and I didn’t make many mistakes, in that period. I know how to develop a strategy now. I know how to develop really compelling goals that are almost irresistible. I think those two skills mixed with not being afraid to put the hard work in have been a real asset of mine.
I know how to develop a strategy, I know how to develop really compelling goals that are almost irresistible. Those two skills mixed with not being afraid to put the hard work in have been a real asset of mine.
Her morning routine
Christian: Do you have a morning routine?
Lydia: I try to do yoga every morning, so that’s definitely something that makes me feel good. It sets me up for the day. As an athlete, I did it religiously and that was a good hour before I would even start warming up. I did a lot of yoga, a lot of breathing techniques, and a lot of mental imagery and visualization as well.
I did a lot of yoga, a lot of breathing techniques, and a lot of mental imagery and visualization as well. I did it religiously.
That’s always been really important to me. Nowadays, when I’m retired, I find myself slipping out of those routines a little bit from time to time, but I’m managing a lot. I try my best to do yoga every morning, or I go for a surf or I do something active.
- Also, check out the interview ‘You can always do more than you think you can.’ with 4-time Olympic champion Inge de Bruijn, who talks about the power of visualization in her career.
How to prepare for important moments
Christian: How do you prepare yourself for important moments?
Lydia: Preparation and planning are key. I do a lot of public speaking as well as mentoring nowadays and you really have to prepare for those things in order to have the performance, you can’t just fluke these things.
Preparation and planning are key. You really have to prepare, you can’t just fluke these things.
You have to have some detailed planning and do the work and be honest with yourself that way. I’m a planner these days, but I’m not naturally one. These days I know that it works and the more details the better and then you just got to put the work in and then it will happen.
How to make the last few seconds before a jump count
Christian: In your sport, you are up there, and they’re just a few seconds until you have to go. So how do you make sure you’re spot on when it counts?
Lydia: Those few seconds before a jump are really important. The best jumps that I’ve ever had were ones where I was just so laser clear on the cues that I was thinking about one or two things and not lots of chatter in your mind.
These were the times where everything was quiet, where I was completely in that zone that a lot of athletes get in where you’re feeling laser-focused. You can see yourself doing the trick effortlessly and perfectly, and then you do it and that’s what you want.
The best jumps that I’ve ever had were ones where I was just so laser clear on the cues, I was completely in that zone where you can see yourself doing the trick effortlessly and perfectly.
That’s what I wanted every jump. You don’t always get that, but you should strive for that. That takes practice and it takes routine. For me, it takes a lot of mental imagery techniques of blocking other distractions out of the way.
- Also, check out the interview ‘Your thinking creates your feelings, your feelings create your actions and your actions create your results.’ with 2002 Olympic champion Jamie Salé, who outlines that it is very difficult to imagine a full routine from start to finish successfully, that only a few athletes can really do it, and that it takes a lot of practice.
These distractions may be internal, like your voice and what you’re saying to yourself. It may also be external, like what you’re seeing, what the weather’s doing, and what other people are doing. It’s best when everything is still and you’re just clear and there’s not too much conversation going on.
How she was with the back against the wall before her last jump to secure the Olympic title
Christian: When you won that Olympic title, you were with your back against the wall and then you did the best jump to secure the title. You pulled it off in the second jump, right?
Lydia: Two jumps combined was what determined who would win. So after the first jump, I was sitting in the second position and with one jump to go. I did the jump and I knew it was going to be really hard to beat.
You know your competitors and you know what they can do. So I knew that I had given the best performance that I could have on that night to secure the win. I was pretty confident that I’d won it.
Christian: Really cool.
How to overcome setbacks
Christian: How do you overcome setbacks?
Lydia: You try and learn something because there’s always something positive that comes out of any situation. Not that sometimes when you’re in it, you can’t always see that. However, you can definitely see it in retrospect now and the important thing I always find is just to try and find ways to improve.
I always want to know how can I make things better. You accept the setback because it has happened. There is nothing much you can do, but you work it out, see how we can fix it, and move on. You not only move on but come out stronger because of it.
There’s always something positive that comes out of any situation. You accept the setback because it has happened and there is nothing much you can do. You work it out, see how you can fix it, and move on. You not only move on but come out stronger because of it.
And that’s the same in business too. You can make mistakes. You try things and they don’t quite work and you learn from them, and often the numbers don’t lie. It’s all in the data and it’s a matter of picking apart the data and figuring it out.
You can’t quit. You just got to figure it out. It’s always like a problem-solving exercise if you want to get better. You have to want to overcome it to get through it.
How she was ranked number two in the world for six years before you became number one in the world
Christian: That leads very well into the next question. You were number two in the world for six years before you became number one in the world. What did you do during that time to persevere and still believe you can do it?
Lydia: It was amazing that I was number two in the world for that long. To be honest, I was injured for 80% of that time and it was a very frustrating position to be in. That was a period of constant injury, constant setback, and some tough competitors.
That was a period of constant injury, constant setback, and some tough competitors.
The reason why I was number two in the world is I had to miss events. I didn’t do all the events and then I’d slip a few points down.
If I was completely healthy, that may have been a little bit different, but you never know. It was pretty good that I was number two in the world, given what I was dealing with at the time.
Her role model
Christian: Who’s your role model and why?
Lydia: I often looked up to the male jumpers because they were the best in the world and I wanted to be like them. It was the Belarusian jumpers who were the best, and who still are the best in the world.
I loved their style and I really looked up to them and wanted to be like them, not because they were guys, but because they were the best. I wanted to benchmark myself against them.
I often looked up to the male jumpers, because they were the best in the world and I wanted to be like them. Not because they were guys, but because they were the best. I wanted to benchmark myself against them.
Other really influential people have been Nadia Comăneci early on as a gymnast because she represented what everyone wanted, which is perfection. She was always a bit of a driving force for me. When you look at the likes of Bruce Lee, which some of his one-liners and philosophies were pretty profound and compelling.
The high performers like Roger Federer’s, I’m the same age as him, so we came through our careers together. It’s amazing to see him still competing and right up there still. He’s had a pretty big influence as well.
The best advice she has received
Christian: What is the best advice you received and who gave it to you?
Lydia: Probably my mental training coach, Jeffrey Hodgins, who I started working with after I injured myself in 2006. He said to me early on, that I had created everything that has ever happened to me. At the time I was really offended by that, and I told him that it was not my fault why I was always injured.
But he was absolutely right. Every thought, every behavior, every decision to push through injuries and do that extra jump, or not do that extra jump, that’s all our own decision making and he’s pretty much right.
We create everything that has happened to us and I think we see that a lot these days. Stress-related injuries, not only injuries but illnesses and people are manifesting that stress and it turns into an illness and a sickness. He was absolutely right. So I made a real conscious decision at that point that every decision I made was important.
We create everything that has happened to us, so I made a real conscious decision at that point that every decision I made was important.
Every thought I had was important, whether it was a negative one or a positive one. It was all leading to then a behavior, which then would become a routine. You have to change thoughts first to be able to have a positive routine. He was right.
We create anything that happens to us unless you’re in an airplane crash or something like that. We can’t do much about that. Most things, we have a pretty heavy hand in.
The story behind her book and movie “The Will to Fly”
Christian: Your book, “The Will to Fly” has been made into a movie. How did that work? Did people approach you to make a movie, or did you actively go out to find someone to do it?
Lydia: No, I didn’t. I got approached and it wasn’t the best time actually, because I’d just become a mom and it was after 2010. I just returned back to the sport and I was going into the 2014 Olympic campaign.
It was a busy time because I was a mom, I was juggling a business and I wanted to make things interesting and do the hardest trick a woman had done before. To have then a film crew following me around was, when I think about it now, quite a lot going on.
It was a busy time because I was a mom, I was juggling a business and I wanted to do the hardest trick a woman had done before.
However, they were interested in my story and so I gave them the film rights and the rights to my story. I told them if at any time it interferes with my training in a negative way, they were gone. It would be over.
They made sure that they didn’t. They were very good at being flies on the wall and just capturing everything. It worked out and it’s a really great film. I think they did an amazing job.
Christian: It’s a really cool movie.
Check out the trailer to Lydia’s movie trailer of The Will To Fly
A typical training day in the life of an Aerial Freestyle skier
Christian: Back in the day, how did the typical training day look like?
Lydia: Back in the day, I’d wake up, I’d do my yoga, I’d have some breakfast and then I’d go and warm up in the gym. I get all my skis waxed, and prepared the night before. I would then go out and jump for about four hours.
By the time you prepare the site and warm up again and get going, it’s a good four-hour block. I then go back, have some lunch, and go to the gym. After that you do your recovery, do some more yoga, have some physio, do some mental training, and then try and get some emails in and some mom time, eat and go to bed.
It was kind of that way for a long time. During the summer we do more numbers. We have two sessions of jumping a day which is pretty full-on as well. It’s a full-time job, really. When you think about it, any professional athlete has the same these days.
I’d wake up, I’d do my yoga, I’d have some breakfast and then I’d go and warm up in the gym, go out and jump for about four hours, have some lunch, go to the gym, do your recovery, do some more yoga, physio, do mental training, try and get some emails in, some mom time, eat and go to bed.
Christian: I know there are some places in Australia where it snows, but how often do you have to go abroad for an ideal training environment?
Lydia: I mean, we do have mountain ranges here and sometimes we trained in Australia, but most of the time we were away. If you want to become a successful winter athlete in Australia, you need to be gone out of the country for about 9 to 10 months a year and that’s how it was for me as well.
Big, long stints away, just because we didn’t have the summer training facilities here in Australia, which now we are actually building, finally. Obviously, you follow the Northern Hemisphere winter. But it was nine to ten months away every year. It was a long time away.
If you want to become a successful winter athlete in Australia, you need to be gone out of the country for about 9 to 10 months a year, big, long stints away.
Christian: To the best of my knowledge, they are only five Olympic champions in the winter Olympics from Australia and you are, I think one of the last ones, right?
Lydia: I was the last, yes. That’s it. That’s been nearly a ten-year anniversary. Hopefully in Beijing and the next winter Olympics, we can change that.
Her motivation to start her company BodyIce
Christian: We talked about your company, “Body and Ice” before, which is a range of ice packs and heat packs that fit onto every body part. You outlined your motivation to start it. Where is it accessible? Is it only in Australia, or can you get it worldwide?
Lydia: We are operating in some territories worldwide. We’re online, so anything is global these days and anyone in the world can get it through bodyIce.com. We ship to any country in the world, but mainly our focus is here in Australia.
Check out the story behind BodyICE
Christian: Okay. Any plans for expansion?
Lydia: We have some distributors in different countries for different ranges, so we’re always keen to expand. It’s more looking at distributors in different territories now and finding people that are interested to do that.
Her interview nomination
Christian: Do you want to nominate someone to be interviewed?
Lydia: Ooh, that’s cool. It would be really interesting to hear from a surfer because surfing is now in the Olympics or skateboarding. That would be interesting for me, like Stephanie Gilmore or Sally Fitzgibbons, or someone heading into the Tokyo Olympics in a new sport.
Christian: Wow. That’s cool.
What’s going on in the life of Lydia Lassila at this moment
Christian: What’s going on in the life of Lydia Lassila at this moment in time?
Lydia: This moment in time, I’m just in work mode really. I am mentoring a couple of athletes going into Tokyo 2020[ne], which is pretty cool, that I have that connection with sport. I am a member of the Australian Olympic Committee’s Athletes’ Commission, so it’s nice to still have a connection to sport and some involvement and I am a mom of two boys.
So the mum thing and traveling, and we live in a pretty nice part of the world. We live on the South Coast of Victoria, so we’re at the beach and learning and improving my surfing, which is definitely giving me the thrills and that adrenaline fix that I need.
It’s a mixed bag. It’s really good like that and I do quite a lot of different things, which keeps it all always interesting.
Christian: Really cool.
Where can you find Lydia Lassila
Christian: Where can people find you?
Lydia: I’m mostly on Instagram. It’s Lydia Lassila on Instagram and LinkedIn and Facebook but probably spend more time on Instagram. This social media thing is very difficult.
Christian: Tell me about it. Lydia.
Lydia Lassila’s social profiles
Christian: Thanks so much for your time. That was great.
Lydia: No, it was my pleasure. Thanks for having me.