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AIS funding helps Lydia continue to fly

Lydia Lassila with her family
Lydia Lassila with husband Lauri and son Kai.

17 Dec 2017

Lydia Lassila is destined for her fifth Winter Olympics in 2018, but the champion aerial skier and mother of two admits she may have retired after her gold medal in 2010 if not for the funding support of the AIS.

The AIS invests about $12 million in direct grants to hundreds of Australian athletes each year. The grants scheme, known as dAIS, supports emerging and podium athletes in Olympic, Paralympic and Commonwealth Games sports.

Athletes use the funding for everything from equipment, education, coaching and competition, but dAIS has enabled 35-year-old Lassila to extend world-class sporting career in balance with being a mum.

Lassila said she used her dAIS funding to provide care for her children, Kai, 6, and Alek, 2, ensuring they are by her side when she trains and competes much of the year overseas.

“This funding is so important to bringing them along with me on the journey because without them I’m not happy,” Lassila said of her sons. “If they weren’t with me, I wouldn’t be competing so my career probably would have been cut short after [winning Olympic gold at] Vancouver 2010.”

“You can have all the gold medals in the world, but if you’ve got no one to share it with you’ve got nothing.

“The kids have enriched my life so much and it’s been amazing to bring them on the adventure.

“Without the dAIS funding I don’t think I would have had this longevity as an athlete. It wouldn’t have been possible.”

Lassila followed her gold medal at the 2010 Vancouver Games with bronze at the 2014 Sochi Games. She is again aiming for a podium finish at her final Games, PyeongChang in February 2018.

“Winning gold is a priceless feeling. You look at that medal around your neck and you see your whole life really in front of you: the people who have supported you, the challenges you’ve overcome to get there, the wins and the losses. You see everything really.”

dAIS provides eligible athletes up to $35,000 a year to pursue their sporting ambitions and has helped many world champion athletes.

Britt Cox – world champion mogul skier “Without dAIS I would not have been able to do most of the training camps that I have done over the last few years and I believe this training has a direct correlation to my recent world championships podium ... dAIS funding is helping and will help the best/most talented/hardest working athletes to reach their full potential, not just those with the financial backing, resulting in a stronger pool of athletes competing for Australia.”

Jess Fox – world champion canoeist “dAIS funding has enabled me to focus on my training and competitions and study without the time constraints of work on top of that. As a 17-year-old receiving my first dAIS funding, I was able to buy the newest equipment for the next season, and that meant no longer asking mum and dad for money to fund my sport!”

Maddison Keeney – world champion diver “I’ve been able to live alone away from home since I was 18-years-old, and my parents haven’t felt the financial burden because I’ve been able to pay my own rent and fund myself without my parents help. It has been a big help not having to worry about it on top of my own training and competitions.”

Will Ryan – world champion sailor “In the last year I have spent 16 days in Australia - three of those at home. Holding down a job with normal hours therefore poses some difficulties. Thanks to dAIS, although I am far from earning what my friends earn in their normal jobs, this funding can help us to cover funding deficits we may have, and to help support our sporting lifestyle as we seek to perform at our best for the Olympics!”

Scott Reardon world champion Paralympic sprinter “Without dAIS I wouldn't be an athlete, it is a simple as that, 100 per cent commitment to full time training needs to be funded for best results.”

Lakeisha Patterson world champion Paralympic swimmer “With the help of dAIS funding, it has enabled me to focus on my Paralympic dream whilst completing my schooling to the highest level without adding the stress of finding a part-time job. Whilst I still live at home and am completing high school, this allows me to be an elite athlete and relieve pressure off my family.”

Katie Kelly world champion Paralympic triathlete “This support allows me to continue the legacy of Para sport and the growth of Para-triathlon. It is tremendous to know that AIS supports Able and Para athletes equally. This support reinforces the importance of continuing to do the best I can, so then I will have more of an opportunity to advocate and ensure the next generation has the same opportunities and equally we have more para athletes coming through the ranks.”

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