New tricks, new ambitions: James eyes Olympic glory
If you want to know what Scotty James has been up to this past six months, even he says it’s best not to look at his social media.
There’s Barcelona, boxing poses and a boat in Miami that could be straight from The Lonely Island film clip.
“My Instagram probably says otherwise – that I have been having a good time but I have been working really hard,” he says with a chuckle.
He’s trained in Spain, did the spring thing in the US, prepped himself in OZ and hit the ‘pipe in Cardrona, NZ before making his way back to Falls Creek where he enjoyed some all-time end of season conditions.
But even if he did lap up some down time after the 2016/17 northern hemisphere winter could you really blame him after logging the best season ever by an Australian halfpipe rider?
In it he took down the alltime greatest snowboarder, American Shaun White, at both the X Games in Aspen and Olympic test event in South Korea before also going on to win the world championship in Spain.
He’s now one of Australia’s best prospects for the Pyeongchang Games in February and is well-placed to join Torah Bright (gold 2010, silver 2014) as a medal winner in what is fast becoming the Winter Olympics’ blue riband event.
Young dog, new tricks
But to beat the likes of White and 2014 Games gold medal winner Iouri Podladtchikov, James feels like he has to step up – even if his opposition are still doing much the same.
“I have been working on some new tricks. There is one in particular that I can’t claim yet because I haven’t completed it,” James says.
“I know what every other rider is going to be doing – at least the main guys I am going to compete against – most of their stuff is out by word or what I have seen with my own eyes.
“I’m not sure what peoples idea of what I am going to do is, but it is definitely going to be a little bit above and beyond … I’ll go into next season still with something to prove and that’s the mentality I’m taking into new tricks and developing things that people have never done before.”
Getting noticed, getting a superpipe in Oz?
With success has come privileges for James. It’s not quite private-halfpipe-in-the-backcountry Shaun White style just yet – but it’s getting there.
“Having some awesome results last year I’ve definitely been able to have a little bit more leverage with some things in terms of support and what not,” he says.
As for the strong mail about him pushing for a halfpipe at Falls Creek, he’s not shying away from it – but concedes it could some take some time to come to fruition.
“Eventually, hopefully I can pull something like that off,” he says.
“Talking about it, keeping interest in it. Trying to keep it alive, it is not only going to benefit me but it will help benefit the kids. It’s something that I wish I had when I was growing up being able to access an Olympic size pipe. It’s a huge project and it is something I’ll keep chipping away at.”
In the meantime the mentoring work continues, and he’s formalised an arrangement with Van Heusen along with the likes of cricketer Mitchell Starc, Paralympic gold medallist Kurt Fearnley, swimmer James Magnussen and Hawthorn AFL star Cyril Rioli to mentor your athletes.
James did a big session at Falls, judging the Dreamer Slopestyle event and taking a big bunch of kids with him for afternoon ride.
“I’m young but I’ve always thrived and been passionate about what I am doing so I have spent time at Falls Creek and other places to help make some of the dreams of kids there come true,” James says. “Being a mentor for me is just being passionate, having a lot of drive and ambition. I do my best to portray that to others so they can do that or other things in their life.”
James is acutely aware of what winning at the Winter Olympics would mean. It takes him from snowsports name into the broader public realm; and given the snowboard halfpipe is pretty much the blue riband event of the Games it would open up some pretty significant opportunities (White is thought to be worth a lazy $50 million so hey …) .
But it’s about some processes first. Next stop Saas Fee in Switzerland, some dryland training in the US and then hitting the halfpipes on on the European glaciers in November.
Competition-wise he’ll do some of the Dew Tour, the First World Cup event at Copper Mountain, the Laax and then the X Games in Aspen.
“The key thing for me is reflecting on last year and what made it so successful and then developing that and trying to make it better.”