Scotty James primed to ride for Oly gold

Melissa Woods |

If Scotty James doesn’t win Olympic gold in Beijing it won’t be for a lack of planning and preparation.

The Australian snowboard superstar is aiming to upgrade from his snowboard halfpipe bronze medal won four years ago in PyeongChang.

He has the style, technique, and most importantly tricks to match a three-pronged Japanese threat, and to stop three-time Olympic champion American Shaun White, who stormed home in the final run to snatch gold in 2018.

In qualifying on Thursday James had the second-highest score behind Japan’s Ayumu Hirano, who has won silver at the past two Olympics.

The top competitors mostly kept their powder dry for Friday’s medal competition, with the talking point the triple cork.

Hirano, still only 23, is the only rider to land snowboard’s most difficult trick but he so far hasn’t been able to complete a full run following it.

Upon arrival at the Games, James said he believed it was likely Hirano would pull it out, and if so he was ready to respond – just like he was ready for any other scenario.

He has his own tricks – a high-risk switchback double cork 1260 and a new frontside 1440 tail grab that he threw down in qualifying.

“I wouldn’t say that it’s an absolute have to (do a triple) – there’s still a lot of other elements in a halfpipe run that need to be absolutely flawless than just doing a triple cork but for sure, we’re definitely prepared for everything for me to finish where I want to finish,” James said after qualifying.

“I’ll just focus on me being the best rider and best athlete I can be and let the rest just happen.”

James said he’d finalised his runs in his European base three months out from Beijing, and like an opposition analyst in football, also knew what every other competitor would bring.

“Nothing surprises me – I know everything,” the four-time Olympian said.

“I know what’s happening, every single trick, who’s doing what, what their plan is for finals and I felt really confident.

“That’s all part of being a competitor and knowing what to expect.”

While living it up in Monaco with his fiance Chloe Stroll, the daughter of Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll, and his good mate F1 driver Daniel Ricciardo, James still calls on the underdog Aussie to get himself “amped up”.

“I talk about who I am, where I’ve come from and what I’ve done,” he said.

“To be Australian up here, competing against people who have grown up with it (snow) in their backyard, there’s a bit of that angry dog inside of me.”

James felt he’d come a long way and learnt a lot since he made his Olympic debut as a 15-year-old in Vancouver in 2010.

“I’m using all the information I’ve gathered over those years as well as obviously 2018 to best set myself up for this.

“I’ve learnt a lot about myself – I’m always evolving, my snowboarding’s evolving – I just want to do good.”

And good means gold, although that remains in the hands of the judges.

“For me, I would be happy with coming out and executing exactly what my plan is and the rest will be what it will be,” James said.

“I’ve absolutely busted my arse to be where I am and worked really hard and that’s all I can really do.

“I can’t guarantee what happens in terms of results but I can guarantee that I show up and do the best that I can, compete the way I want to compete and that’s it.”