Fear no longer a factor for freestyle skier James Woods ahead of third Winter Olympics
From a self-confessed scaredy-cat to a freestyle superstar intent on taming one of the toughest courses in Olympic history, James Woods has no intention of calling time on his swashbuckling career.
Fear is no longer a factor for the free-spirited 30-year-old, who will take part in his third Winter Olympics in Beijing 5,000 miles from his cautious early steps at the Sheffield Ski Village.
“I don’t get scared,” grinned Woods as he surveyed the death-slide drop at the end of the slopestyle course high in the Zhangjikou mountains, upon which he is expected to challenge for a medal next week.
“I remember being scared. When I was a kid I was scared of everything. I was shy when I was a kid, if you can believe it.
“It’s about how you frame it and deal with it. For me now, bigger is always better. I haven’t had a real good eyeball yet but this course is rad, it’s extreme, and I’m buzzing on it.”
A former world champion and X Games gold medallist, Woods travels the world in pursuit of his passion, barely having time to drop his bags back in his native country, arriving in Beijing from Nicaragua where he had spent his summer surfing and spear-fishing.
If it is the kind of globe-trotting lifestyle he could scarcely have envisaged as a tentative Sheffield kid, it is also one he is eager to extend and wring thrills from for as long as possible.
“I never want to stop skiing,” Woods said. “My body has never felt better – I’ve dealt with a few injuries in the past and I truly believe I’ve come back stronger and in a much better place.”
Woods finished fifth on his Olympic debut in Sochi in 2014, when he was hampered by a hip injury, and went one step closer to a medal in Pyeongchang four years ago, where he was fourth.
I never want to stop skiing. My body has never felt better - I've dealt with a few injuries in the past and I truly believe I've come back stronger and in a much better place.
Having experienced the agony of coming so close to the podium, Woods is keen to counter the common perception that for freestyle skiers like himself, winning an Olympic medal is secondary to simply nailing a good run on the slopes.
Woods added: “I don’t compete for any other reason than to win – that’s why I compete and that’s why I do these things.
“The day I don’t think I can win is the day I stop competing. I am here for business, but if that is the way free-skiing is defined, that I’m happy-go-lucky, then I’m fine with that.
“I always refer to it as an art form more than a sport. It’s not about how quickly you get over the line, or how many times you get the ball in the goal. You can only put your best out there, then it’s up to the judges to decide.”