Sochi 2014 Team GB hopeful
James Woods admits freestyle ski slopestyle’s inclusion onto the Olympic programme has altered the discipline – and at the rate he is going he may have to get used to further change.
The 21-year-old is rapidly putting himself into a position not experienced by too many British winter athletes as with less than a year to go until Sochi 2014 he is a realistic gold-medal hope.
Woods’ performances in this season’s World Cup are the cause for such optimism with victories at the opening round in Argentina in September and second in Copper Mountain last month.
Those two wins were just Woods’ second and third starts in slopestyle on the World Cup circuit, his debut coming in March 2012 in Mammoth where he finished eighth.
Woods’ actual World Cup debut came in the halfpipe discipline days before his 16th birthday in Les Contamines, where he was 37th while his World Championship bow was in Park City in 2011.
And, despite a tenth at the latest World Cup round in Silvaplana, Woods is the champion elect as he leads the discipline standings by 86 points with round four in Sochi cancelled.
That was meant to be the official Olympic test event however due to a lack of snow in the Russian venue it will no longer take place with one round left and a maximum of 100 points on offer.
That will come in Sierra Nevada on March 23 two weeks after the World Championships while away from such circuits and Woods is also fast making a name for himself.
He won bronze at the Winter X Games in Aspen last month after topping the qualification round with the IOC voting in 2011 to add ski and snowboard slopestyle to the Games programme.
Britain has never officially won a skiing medal at the Winter Olympics while Amy Williams claimed the nation’s first individual gold for 30 years when she won the women’s skeleton at Vancouver 2010.
She openly admits that she didn’t expect the furore that came with her triumph and, if Woods follows suit in Sochi, he will undoubtedly get the same with change something he’s getting used to.
“It was a bit of a lad’s tour, living the dream,” he told the Daily Telegraph last month. “It has been a bit of a shock because the Olympics has made it more competitive, suddenly there are skiers who you have never seen before.
“But I want to keep going and become so accustomed to competing that the Olympics will just be another day in the office.
“It is just fun and a lifestyle sport. You are free to do whatever you want and there are no rules, no one is telling you what to do or what you cannot do.
“It is all about self-expression and being rewarded for being completely different to everyone else. The focus for me is to work very hard on the style aspect and to make it all look so easy.
“When I get to a course, I look how I can bring the tricks I like into this situation. All of the skiers want diversity of the course. The last thing we want is a rule book on how to win a slopestyle.”
© Sportsbeat 2013