By Ian Ransom
PYEONGCHANG (Reuters) - Olympic silver medalist David Morris had to "man up" at the age of 33 to nail one of the hardest tricks in freestyle skiing, a breakthrough he hopes will deliver the aerials gold at the Pyeongchang Games.
Morris was runner-up to Anton Kushnir at the Sochi Games and felt he needed to bring something new to the Phoenix Snow Park where he will again lock horns with the champion Belarusian.
Like many of his rivals, Morris is a trained gymnast but it proved a battle to summon the confidence to attempt a triple somersault with five twists, the trick that got Kushnir over the line at Sochi.
Few have been able to land it successfully in competition and the weight of the challenge nearly crushed him when he attempted the trick at a training camp in Finland last week.
"I was at the top, having a mental breakdown -- I think I was borderline about to cry and question my life decisions and whether it was actually worth skiing down and trying this skill," the triple Olympian told reporters at the Alpensia Resort in Pyeongchang on Wednesday.
It took a hug and some encouraging words from his Australian team mate Lydia Lassila, who won the women's aerials gold at the 2010 Vancouver Games, before Morris could take the plunge.
He gave an impromptu demonstration of the trick in front of a media scrum.
"Coming into the jump, I'm kind of shaking like this," he said, raising trembling hands above his head.
"Then I come off the jump, switch into a double twist, I'm spinning around, spinning around.
"It happens in less than three seconds, I honestly do close my eyes the entire time until I hit the ground, so it's a bit of a surprise."
Morris posted a video of the trick on his Instagram account and believes his 'secret weapon' could prove a game-changer on Feb. 18 when the men's aerials medals are decided.
"I've been ready for quite a while, I just had to sort of, I guess, man up and do it," he said.
"It was easier than I thought it'd be. It was just very, very scary but once I did it, I went back up and did another one," he said.
"Absolutely it's a medal-winning jump.
"If I get into the top six, there's no way I'm not doing that skill. I haven't come all this way to just back down at the last minute."
(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)