James white hot on board

It was a tall or­der but Aussie broke the mould

The Weekend Post - - Sport - SCOTT GUL­LAN

THE snow­board was orig­i­nally given to Scotty James as a de­ter­rent.

“The story that my mum tells is that I wouldn’t quite co­op­er­ate with ski school,” James ex­plains.

“I was quite ad­ven­tur­ous and would ski off on my own and wouldn’t keep with the class be­cause it was bor­ing.

“They thought the so­lu­tion would be: ‘Let’s put him on a snow­board and that will put him on his a*** so he won’t be out of our sight.’ I think that worked for about five or six months un­til I fig­ured it out.”

That lit­tle kid from War­randyte on the slopes of Falls Creek cer­tainly fig­ured out the snow­board and, by the time he was 15, James was rep­re­sent­ing Aus­tralia at the Win­ter Olympics.

Now 23, he’s at his third Olympics and last night car­ried the Aus­tralian flag at the PyeongChang open­ing cer­e­mony.

James is the half-pipe world cham­pion, a multi-mil­lion­aire and a se­ri­ously big deal in the US, although NBA star Ben Sim­mons may have re­cently sur­passed him as Aus­tralia’s most pop­u­lar ath­lete there.

And by the mid­dle of next week, there’s a good chance he’ll be an Olympic cham­pion.

The first thing peo­ple no­tice about James is his height. It’s as­sumed that fly­ing around in mid-air do­ing jaw-drop­ping twists and turns is more suited to those small in stature.

Gen­er­ally that’s cor­rect – the sport’s guru, Amer­i­can two-time Olympic cham­pion Shaun White, is 175cm – but James is 190cm.

“It is def­i­nitely a bit un­ortho­dox for some­one like my­self to be tall and be do­ing the tricks I do,” James says.

“But I have kind of used it as an ad­van­tage for me re­ally.

“It’s an op­por­tu­nity to carry speed, to get higher am­pli­tude and I’ve heard it a cou­ple of times now that taller guys make it look bet­ter.

“I think when I was a lit­tle bit younger and go­ing through my growth spurt, I would lis­ten a lit­tle bit more and think be­ing tall wasn’t the way.

“But I think I have bro­ken that mould and shown the world, as well as other kids, or any­one else who is strug­gling with the same thing, that any­thing is pos­si­ble.”


For a long time James just soaked up the life­style of trav­el­ling the world do­ing his thing – he first com­peted in­ter­na­tion­ally at 14 – and did not take things too se­ri­ously.

He fin­ished 21st in Van­cou­ver in the 2010 Olympics and in the same po­si­tion in the half-pipe four years later in Sochi. But he wanted more.

James started train­ing prop­erly, be­came a gym junkie and got a nu­tri­tion­ist, which meant diet changes.

The im­proved ver­sion was on show last year when he de­fended his world ti­tle, picked up his first X Games gold medal and won the Olympic test event. It was cer­tainly no­ticed by White, the man known as the “Fly­ing Tomato” who has dom­i­nated snow­board­ing for 15 years.

“He uses his strength and his height as an ad­van­tage for him, it’s just im­pres­sive,” White, 31, says. “I re­mem­ber him be­ing around, but he wasn’t as pas­sion­ate, as driven as he is to­day.

“Scotty has def­i­nitely hit a nice peak last sea­son by win­ning a bunch of big events and now he’s mak­ing his way and we’ll see what hap­pens at the Olympics.”

Shat­ter­ing the aura around White last year was a cru­cial break­through for James in his quest for Olympic gold.

“I have got a lot of re­spect for him. He’s the pi­o­neer and he’s kind of put our sport on the map,” James says.

James, who is based in Colorado, didn’t mince words af­ter a re­cent loss to White, say­ing he was “shafted” by the judges.

The Amer­i­can was given a per­fect 100 and James was sec­ond (96.25) af­ter un­veil­ing a break­through switch back­side dou­ble cork 1260, a trick he’d spent 18 months per­fect­ing which in­volves three-and-ahalf spins, and a blind en­try and land­ing.

“I am not a sore loser,” he says. “I just think ev­ery­one would agree it is pretty tough to get a per­fect score.”


edi­to­rial@cairn­spost.com.au face­book.com/TheCairn­sPost www.cairn­spost.com.au twit­ter.com/TheCairn­sPost

FLY­ING HIGH: Aus­tralian Scotty James com­petes in the Men's Snow­board Half­pi­pealf­pipe fi­nals at the FIS Snow­board World Cup Cup. He’s hop­ing to claim gold at the Win­ter Olympics. Pic­ture: GETTY IM­AGES

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