Lydia Lassila says aggrieved riders have every right to vent spleen

The word out of the athletes' village is a change has come over Lydia Lassila.

Normally, she's the happy, bouncing pocket rocket, but this version of Lassila is focused, bordering on cranky.

She is seemingly angry with the world as she prepares to defend her aerial freestyle title on Saturday morning (AEST).

Earlier this week, she blasted host broadcaster Network Ten for dramatising some routine falls in practice. Now she has come out swinging in defence of her peers, insisting they have every right to criticise the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park course.

"It's not bitching and moaning," Lassila said. "It's frustration and disappointment. You have to sympathise with them.

"Those people who have had a really hard time on their course, you have to remember they've worked so hard for this moment, and they can't do their best because the course won't allow them. You might feel like it's being overdone, but the athletes have worked all their lives for this. There's nothing more disappointing for them."

While her Australian teammate Torah Bright has been critical of the construction company used to make the halfpipe and slopestyle courses, Lassila said the aerials jumps were more than acceptable.

It is the warm weather that's the lingering problem, but she insists conditions were more problematic in Vancouver four years ago, when she won gold.

"The weather is warm, and that makes any snow sport challenging," she said. "Things do get pretty sticky out there. It means everything to a lot of events. You saw in the halfpipe what it can do to the greatest of the greats. That is an issue. Our team is doing very well. We learnt a lot from the Vancouver Olympics, because we had very similar conditions. Actually, probably worse, where people would ski through the jumps basically, instead of off them. To do what we do, when you are hitting the jumps at 60km/h, that does mean it can make a massive difference.

"It's no-one's fault. The conditions of these mountains are volatile. They're close to the coast, the same as Vancouver. When you get warm weather, you get warm weather. I guess it's the same for everyone."

Weather could determine if Lassila will try the fabled quad-twisting triple somersault she completed in training on Tuesday.

No woman has ever landed it, in training or competition, and she now heads into her Olympic title defence knowing she has the jump in her back pocket that will secure gold. "Yeah, I can do it [in competition]," she said. "I have to make it through all the rounds of our format. I wouldn't do it on the first round, because it's elimination. Scores don't carry across. If I was going to do it I would save it until the last jump. I've still got some more to figure out still. I'll probably figure that out on the day. Just polishing up a few things and landing some stuff. It's coming together."

Australia have a full quota of competitors in the aerials competition. Danielle Scott finished third at last year's world championships. Laura Peel has won medals on the World Cup circuit, and Samantha Wells fills the other position.

Lassila's greatest threat is China's reigning world champion, Xu Mengtao. If anyone can replicate her quad-twisting triple, it's Xu.

Either way, this looms as Lassila's final competition. When she won gold in Vancouver, she figured that would be the end of her career. She went away, started a family and pursued business interests, but then mounted a comeback that places her on the not-so-chilly slopes of the Caucasus mountains, at her fourth Olympics, looking for a second gold medal.

Asked if this was her last Olympic competition, she said: "I have a feeling it is. I'm 32 and want to spend time with my family. I'm on a tail-end and reaching my full potential."

This story Lydia Lassila says aggrieved riders have every right to vent spleen first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.