Lydia Lassila unleashed the most difficult trick attempted by a female aerial skier, only just failing to rope in a Winter Olympic gold medal with it.
The defending Games champion from Vancouver took out bronze as she bravely laid down a quad-twisting triple somersault with victory on the line in the four-woman final.
It was a close-run thing.
Her form in the air was rock solid, the 32-year-old stretching out as much as she could only to backslap at the last moment.
The degree of difficulty with the competition-untried trick was such it ensured Lassila (72.12 points) finished behind Belarusian veteran Alla Tsuper (98.01) and China’s Mengtao Xu (83.5).
“It was my maximum effort and to be able to do that trick in the super final was something and I have left my mark forever and made history with that trick,” said an emotional Lassila, a four-time Winter Olympian.
“It would have been great to land it but I was stretching for my life, believe me.
“It wasn’t the easiest week or day but I just kept my cool and tried to keep pushing on through the rounds and pulled out some really great jumping.”
Much like snowboarding silver medal winner Torah Bright, Lassila had been in a feisty mood before competition, railing against Network Ten’s coverage of all the crashes in her sport rather than picking up on the fact she had become the first woman to land a quad-twisting triple somersault in training.
She carried a steely look most of the evening, despite the odd hiccup.
The night had started off poorly when she missed her first jump and had to go through a second round of qualifying to make the 12-woman round.
It only seemed to get worse with multiple crashes during warm-up before the first final.
But from there she shone.
Lassila executed a double-twisting triple somersault before upping the ante yet again with a nicely landed triple-twisting triple somersault in the eight-woman penultimate final.
From there, it was time to unleash the beast, and she had no regrets about attempting to snatch gold with a daring trick as the second last skier off the jump.
“These Olympics were really about me reaching my potential as an aerial skier and I have been wanting to do that trick for 15 years,” she said after a bout of tears.
“My first World Cup that I saw at Mt Buller in 1999, I saw the guys going off and I was just mesmerised. I couldn’t ski yet but I was mesmerised. I was like ‘I want to jump like a guy; I want to do that trick’. It has been a long journey ever since. I have been trying my whole career to do that.”
It was a fine moment for Tsuper who won her first gold after five Games but disappointing for the strong Chinese contingent who missed the top spot again.
Lassila had taken two years off after the last Olympics to have a baby.
She found her way back to form with a series of podium finishes in World Cup competition but only won her first event in four years in Canada last month.
Of the other Australians, Laura Peel finished seventh, Danielle Scott was ninth and Samantha Wells was 18th.
Hanyu wins historic gold for Japan
Teenager Yuzuru Hanyu won Japan’s first ever Olympic Games men’s figure skating title on Friday as Sochi temperatures soared and reputations crashed.
Hanyu, 19, took gold despite falling twice in the free skate, his performance aided by his world record short program 24 hours earlier and the inability of rival, three-time world champion Patrick Chan to stay on his feet.
Denis Ten moved up from ninth after the short program to take a first Olympic figure skating bronze for Kazakhstan.
“A win’s a win’s a win. It’s going to sink in. This is history. It’s a gift for my country,” said Hanyu.
Hanyu sealed his historic victory with his free skate to Nino Rota’s “Romeo and Juliet” in front of a capacity crowd at the Iceberg Skating Palace, forgetting for the moment the absence of Russian star Yevgeny Plushenko.
Carrying a 3.93-point lead in from the short program Hanyu scored 178.64 for the free skate, despite a two-point deduction, for an overall total of 280.09.
Chan, 23, achieved 178.10 to take silver after stumbling through Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” and “Concerto Grosso” for an overall total of 275.62.
Swiss outsider Sandro Viletta won men’s super combined ski gold as the big Alpine ski stars again failed to fire.
World champion Ted Ligety could only finish 12th while French tyro Alexis Pinturault crashed out of the afternoon slalom when well-placed on the mountain course at Rosa Khutor.
As temperatures nudged 14 degrees Celsius, Viletta, 14th after the morning downhill, swept down the increasingly slushy course to post a winning time of 2min 45.20sec.
Croatian veteran Ivica Kostelic (2:45.54) won his third consecutive Olympic silver in the event while Italy’s Christof Innerhofer won bronze to add to his second place in the downhill.
Victory for Viletta — who has not had a single World Cup podium finish in the event — came just two days after compatriot Dominique Gisin won a shock gold in the women’s downhill.
“This is amazing. It’s perfect. It’s also a big shock. I didn’t think I would come first,” said the 28-year-old Swiss.
Just as the likes of Ligety, Pinturault and Bode Miller flopped in the mountains, the once sky-high reputation of Russian figure skating icon Plushenko plummeted as the day progressed.
The 31-year-old double Olympic champion had retired on Thursday after a back injury forced him to quit the men’s final.
But there was frustration that the fragile veteran had not pulled out of the Olympics after winning gold in the team competition, which would have allowed Russia to field a replacement in the men’s event.
“It was a lamentable spectacle,” Russian figure skating legend and three-time Olympic gold medallist Irina Rodnina told Sovietsky Sport.
His departure was also highly controversial given the debate that preceded his selection over his younger rival, the Russian champion Maxim Kovtun, 18.
Meanwhile, as temperatures soared, some cross country skiers stripped down to their shorts for the gruelling men’s 15km classic time trial.
Organisers also had to bring forward the start time of the morning downhill element of the super-combined skiing event while a series of freestyle skiing training sessions were later cancelled in order to protect the fragile surfaces.
Switzerland’s Dario Cologna won his second gold of the Games with a dominant performance in the men’s 15km cross country.
Belarus skier Darya Domracheva put in a phenomenal display to win her second biathlon gold of the Sochi Olympics in the women’s 15km individual.
Freestyle skier Alla Tsuper then won the women’s Aerials to ensure Belarus’s most successful Olympics ever.
Tsuper, 34, edged out world champion Xu Mengtao of China into silver with Australia’s reigning Olympic champion Lydia Lassila taking bronze.
Lizzy Yarnold earned Britain’s first gold medal in Sochi with victory in the skeleton.
The 25-year-old, who led the event after the two opening runs, produced two more consistent rounds to clock a combined time of 3min 52.89sec to finish 0.97sec ahead of second-placed Noelle Pikus-Pace of the United States.
Russia’s 2013 European champion Elena Nikitina was third.