James Woods underlines his potential to win an Olympic medal next year every time he takes to the snow – and if his start to the new season is anything to go by it will just be a case of which colour.
Woods played a major role in a hugely successful last season not just for British freestyle ski athletes like himself but for the whole winter team with an array of medals at the biggest competitions.
The 21-year-old, who specialises in slopestyle, which is new to the Olympic programme for the Sochi 2014 Games, won X Games bronze, World Championship silver and the overall World Cup title.
He claimed two medals on the way to the latter and began the Olympic season with another World Cup podium finish on the slopes of New Zealand – and it was almost a golden start.
Woods led the men’s World Cup slopestyle competition until the very last run, having scored 92.00 first time out, when he was trumped by Nick Goepper, who won X Games gold last season.
The Brit had to settle for silver as Goepper posted 94.00 and Woods only managed 89.40 in return but it still represented a great start and offered the hope of what might come in Sochi.
And if the scores in New Zealand were high, head judge of that competition Greg Tuscher, believes Woods and co are only going to get better as the Olympics draw ever closer.
“It was a great comp. The level is really high now and it’s really tough to judge because the top guys make no mistakes,” he said. “The level is going to keep getting higher and the judging is going to have to follow.
"We’re at the point where everyone, judges, athletes and coaches have to come together and talk about where we want to go with the sport and find a way of keeping the spirit.
“Maybe we can reward less spinning with better style, or better execution.”
Fellow freestyle skier Anna Vincenti reached the ladies’ slopestyle final on her World Cup debut in New Zealand but didn’t take part in it due to injury.
A fall in practice ruled her out while in qualifying for the men’s slopestyle competition fellow Brits Tyler Harding, Zhachary Pham and Paddy Graham scored 74.40, 52.40 and 24.00 respectively.
Also in New Zealand were Ben Kilner and Dom Harington in the snowboard halfpipe competition with the pair scoring a best of 42.66 and 43.00 respectively from their qualifying runs.
And finally, staying Down Under, and Billy Morgan, who was one of the first Brits to compete in New Zealand, enjoyed success across the Tasman in Australia.
He won the Mile High Big Air competition in Perisher in New South Wales and was second in the Mile High Slopestyle competition where he became the first person to land a triple in Australia.
His run consisted of a backside rodeo, cab double under flip and a backside triple 1440 and certainly puts him in good shape for the rest of the Olympic season.
© Sportsbeat 2013