Winter Olympics 2018: Lock it in, Dave
It was a year and then some after his Sochi silver medal efforts before David Morris realised that he’d really made it.
While Adam Goodes may beg to differ, featuring on Eddie McGuire’s Millionaire Hot Seat was surely the ultimate sign of national acceptance.
Not that he was on it, on it.
More that his name featured in a question: Australian athlete David Morris is an Olympic silver medallist in which sport? Just as gratifying still was that the contestant knew the answer.
It gave Morris a laugh, but truth be told he was already comfortable with his place in the Australian sporting landscape: as just the country’s third man to win an individual Winter Olympics medal.
Comfortable, yes. Content, no.
“I kept it quiet,” he said of his gradual comeback into the sport that got a bit more serious with some water ramp training in Melbourne over the past month. “Initially when I had my medal I was like – ‘na, I’ve done it, I’m done’. Then I changed my mind pretty much straight away.
“People have asked why are you coming back? But over the past year I’ve looked at it from a different angle: why should I stop? I’m good at it. I have all my skills, my body is holding up. Until I have a reason to stop, I won’t.”
The lure of repeating or even bettering his surprise Sochi silver medal is certainly there.
“Can I come back and repeat it? That’s the scary thing. I know I can do stuff but once people have expectations of you that changes the game a bit.”
Yet he’s a man that knows this game well. Bloody well. Lost on most people was the genius strategy that helped him finish behind only Anton Kushnir of Belarus on the coastal Caucasus.
It was six months in the making – jump permutations and calculations that could be thrown off the hill any minute due to an aerial skiing format in the Games which seems to reward and frustrate in equal measure.
He nailed his first jump in qualifying but then made a quick decision to downgrade his second effort; the vagaries of his sport at the Games meant he really had to save his best two jumps for the last two rounds.
Morris qualified last for the eight-man final.
And last for the four-man final.
Yet it mattered little as his clean marker in the decider and Kushnir’s outstanding jump put the heat on the two Chinese competitors who both botched their landings.
Silver was his.
The past year and some has been a whirlwind of books, motivational speaking, media commitments and much to his delight seeing a group of young men take up the sport by way of a development program through the Victorian Institute of Sport.
It was something made in no small part possible by Morris’s Sochi performance; the trailblazer who attached himself to the women’s program in Australia because there was no pathways for men to become aerial skiers. Through force of will and ultimately result he changed all that.
“I think they were better than me initially,” he says magnanimously of the young men that are aiming to follow in his ski boots. “They are better trampolinists and better gymnasts – so that’s promising. By 2022 I think they could be very good”.
Far from falling apart after Alisa Camplin and Jacqui Cooper retired, aerial skiing in Australia has maintained the rage.
Lydia Lassila picked up the baton as Cooper couldn’t finish off in Vancouver five years ago, grabbing gold and picking up bronze with a competition untried quadruple-twisting triple somersault last year.
Lassila has since had a second baby and seems unlikely to continue (though Morris offers: “I’m not sure if in her head she is actually finished …”) but Laura Peel went on to become a surprise world champion in Austria earlier this year while Dani Scott finished the season third overall. Renee McElduff also won a World Cup event.
Morris, who’ll head to Park City to do more water ramp training with the women’s team before tuning up for the World Cup season in the northern hemisphere, says like most of his teammates it’s a sport he simply can’t shake.
“I like being upside down, I miss it. As we go through the summer and the winter I’ll probably find that this is why I want to be here again and I would like something to get me out of bed every morning properly.”