SPORT

NSW Government Kicks In $5.9 Million For Lennox Head Aerial Skiing Water Jump

About time, too.

14/06/2016 2:35 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:54 PM AEST
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Deer NSW guvvamint, u rok. Luv Kai.

This is the adorable picture from a three-year-old that heralds a new era in Australian sport.

The little boy is Kai Lassila. He's the son of Olympic gold medalist aerial skier Lydia Lassila, who for years has campaigned for a proper training facility in Australia. And now we're going to have one.

The NSW government announced on Tuesday that it would kick in $5.9 million towards a world-class international ski jump ramp and high-performance centre in the small town of Lennox Head in northern NSW.

Aerial skiers do most of their training on water jumps. It's how they perfect the incredible twisting flips without risking an injury on landing. For years, Australian aerial skiers trained in this muddy farm dam in Lilydale, near Melbourne. Here's Kai's mum Lydia in the muck. Yuk.

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Hang around in there too long and the yabbies and eels will eat ya!

But now, they'll be landing in water that looks blue, not brown.

In truth, our aerialists have been landing in blue water for a while now. Australia's aerial team has shunned the Lilydale jump and taken to training in the pool at Park City, Utah. Factor in on-snow training and competition, and they're away from home for nine or ten months of the year.

"That will be more like three months now," aerial skier and Sochi Winter Olympics silver medalist David Morris told The Huffington Post Australia.

"It will be a lot less expensive to train here [in Australia]. It's a huge thing for athletes. We can have a job, and to have time at home is invaluable. There are so many little benefits that all add up."

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He's even happier about the jump than he was about winning silver in Sochi.

Morris, a former gymnast, is our only male to win a medal in this sport. But our women have made Australia the most successful ever nation in aerial skiing. In fact, this is the only Olympic sport -- summer or winter -- where Australian women lead the world in total medals.

For years, Lydia Lassila and others have campaigned for a world class water jump. It looked like it would be built in Queensland, but the Newman government backed out at the last minute at the start of 2015.

Finally, at a total cost of $10 million, the NSW government has confirmed it will be built in a town of 7,500 people about an hour south of the Queensland border.

"The facility will provide a significant boost to the local Lennox Head and Ballina communities, providing new jobs during construction plus retail, accommodation and tourism benefits for the Lennox Head and Ballina communities," NSW Sports Minister Stuart Ayres said.

David Morris said he thought overseas teams would definitely come and train at the new facility, which is set to open in 2018. Unlike Park City and other water jumps located in winter sports centres, the Lennox Head jump will be open year round because it won't freeze in winter.

PETER HARRISON
Aerial view of Lennox Head. Nice spot for a surf, and about to become one of the world's foremost winter sports training centres.

Morris is aiming to compete in the next Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. Whether the Lennox Head facility is open before then doesn't concern him. He's just thrilled for the future of aerial skiing and other winter sports like slopestyle and mogul skiing -- whose athletes will also use it.

Above all, he's excited about drawing more people into the sport.

"I first saw aerial skiing on TV and had a go at it and happened to be good at it. I don't know how many people we've missed in past, but this facility will be an opportunity for random people to see a whole range of new sports and come out and try them," he said.

And if you're wondering what a water jump looks like, here's Dave in Park City recently.

Meanwhile, perhaps inspired by her son's picture, Lydia Lassila was at the launch announcement on Tuesday. You might remember Lydia from our story about her movie The Will to Fly.

Whether Lydia retains the will to fly at another Olympics remains to be seen. She has competed at the last four Games, and won a bronze medal at the Sochi 2014 Olympics as she became the first woman in history to land a quad-twisting triple somersault.

Tuesday's announcement might just help her decide in the affirmative. We gave her a call today, but no word yet.

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