High-flying Woods won't feel stress on Winter Olympic countdown
Freestyle Skiing

High-flying Woods won't feel stress on Winter Olympic countdown

15 February 2017 / 08:09
James Woods doesn’t speak like your normal athlete, he doesn’t think like your normal athlete and even admits that he struggles to see himself as an athlete. 
jameswoodssochi2But with one year to go until the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, the freestyle skier - who’d top any podium for infectious enthusiasm - is firmly established at the very summit of his sport.

Woods, 25, is enjoying a season to remember after claiming gold at the prestigious X-Games in Aspen, an achievement that was his ultimate sporting ambition, before the slopestyle discipline was first included at the Olympics in 2014.

He enters the final World Cup event of the season ranked second in the world, vying with Swiss rival Andri Ragettli for the overall title he last won four years ago, when he became the first British skier to secure a crystal globe.

And then it’s the small matter of the World Championships in Spain, where he’ll be looking to upgrade the silver medal he won four years ago in Norway.
jameswoodssochi But Woods claims he doesn’t think about results and that pressure to deliver doesn’t faze him. Lots of athletes talk about ‘focussing on the process, not the outcome’ - but for Woods it’s not parroted psychologist speak but the ethos of his sport.

After finishing just outside the podium at the Sochi Olympics, his medal claims hampered by a untimely hip injury, he said: “Fifth in the Olympics, with four of my best mates in front of me, it is great."

It’s the sort of quote heard from lots of athletes and never quite believed - but with Woods it was entirely genuine. 

“As far as winning and all that's concerned, this is all me and this is what I do and I don't really think about that kind of stuff,” he said.

“The passion is pretty authentic, it's real, and it's not a passion for winning. Obviously it feels amazing to stand on top of the world and hold a trophy but that's just a huge bonus really.

“It’s about my whole performance and knowing you've done your absolute best. It's amazing to have major events that I can look back on and say ‘you know, I did that’, but to be honest I'm very much my own performer. 

“My only goal has always been to be the best that I can be and I've said that from the beginning. If I’m in a competition and I do everything my best, the best effort I can, and I come fifth, then I’m the happiest dude in the whole world.

“I’m a just kid from Sheffield, who loves to ski and I've never had performance goals. My thinking about what I do is that it's very much an art. It doesn't always lend itself to gold, silver or bronze.”

Four years ago Woods admits his motivation wasn’t winning but pride. He wanted to fly the flag for British snow sports, whose profile has certainly changed in recent years.

Since snowboarder Jennie Jones won bronze in Sochi - Team GB’s first Olympic medal on snow - a new generation have stepped up. In addition to Woods, this year has seen World Cup podiums across a range of disciplines from slalom skier Dave Ryding to snowboarding cousins Jamie Nicholls and Katie Ormerod.

Woods insists there are no regrets about his debut Olympic performance. His injury, just a couple of days before competition, would have ruled him out of any other event and severely limited what he could achieve. 

But he won’t be holding back in the build up to PyeongChang - go big or go home as they say.

“There's always a temptation to do something different but you’re always living and learning,” he adds.

“Injuries happen, it's dangerous walking across the street but I would change nothing. You need to practice, you need to get used to the course, you need to feel it.

“The sort of mantra that I've taken with me is that you win some, you lose some, sometimes you get a gift from the judges and sometimes you get it taken away.

"You can't dwell on it because skiing's given me everything and I'm more than happy to take the good and bad."

By James Toney, Sportsbeat

Sportsbeat 2017

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