James Woods says he fears nothing, not broken bones and certainly not failure, writes James Toney.
Woods became the first British man to win a World Championship gold on snow three years ago but his two previous Winter Olympic appearances have been near misses, a fifth in Sochi and fourth in PyeongChang.
On both occasions he was nursing a niggling injury, this time around there are no such problems, although an untimely Covid diagnosis over Christmas nearly cost him his qualification, meaning he is flying in under the radar when it comes to British medal hopes.
Woods, 30, got his first glimpse of the slopestyle course today and liked what he saw. Beijing organisers won’t be holding back in making this controversial show both big and bold for a watching world.
And the course designers at the Genting Sports Park certainly got the right memo.
“I don’t get scared,” said Woods, as he gazed up at a course that would give most mortals a bad dose of vertigo just thinking about it. “Maybe one day I’ll write a book about my weird relationship with fear.
Another opportunity to shred and hopefully make Freeskiing look good. Very grateful for all of the opportunities I’ve been given in my live, thank you everyone 🙏 @ Heathrow Airport https://t.co/wkRsP9O8rm
— James Woodsy (@JamesWoodsy) January 27, 2022
"I know I'm a show off now but when I was a kid I was scared of everything, I was so shy if you can believe that.
"It's about how you frame fear 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 absolutely buzzing for it.
"I’ve had a few more years of skiing under my belt, more time is more experience. I still love this game so much. As far as tricks and technical ability is concerned, it’s all I’ve been focusing on since I was 12 years old and I certainly haven’t stopped progressing.
"I believe I’m staying with the crowd, if not beyond it. That’s what I’m telling myself and we’ll see what everyone else has been holding but I'm here for business."
Woods will compete in two events in Beijing with the Big Air coming before the slopestyle, his favoured discipline, next Monday.
Big Air involves throwing yourself off 50m ramp, before twisting and spinning to a hopefully soft landing. In slopestyle - which Woods dubs 'an art form rather than a sport' - you navigate a course pitted with obstacles while completing as many attention-grabbing tricks as possible.
Woods's hybrid transatlantic accent, a fusion of Yorkshire and west coast surfer dude, underlines his nomadic thrill-seeking lifestyle but not his roots. There's still plenty of grit in this showman.
— Eurosport (@eurosport) February 1, 2022
Home is still home, the dry slopes of Sheffield Ski Village, where he strapped on skis two decades ago never far from his mind. But winter is grinding on the ski circuit and last summer he spent his days surfing and spear fishing in Nicaragua.
Perhaps for a man who boasts he can fit all his worldly possessions in a couple of suitcases, home is really where he lays his bobble hat.
"There’s no pressure that anyone can put on me that exceeds the pressure I put on myself," added Woods, whose exploits in the Chinese capital will be broadcast live on discovery+, Eurosport and Eurosport app.
"I don’t compete for any other reason than to win, the day I don’t think I can win is the day I stop competing.
"I’ve been eyeballing this one for a while, as soon as Sochi finished I was like, oh right, PyeongChang, and as soon as that finished I was like well, world champs next year and straight into Beijing.
"You’re always going for the win, so to come fifth and fourth with a little bit of adversity at both is frustrating for sure. People have this image of a laidback skier guy but I'm a competitive person, there’s no hiding behind that. It’s about winning, always has been.”
Watch All the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 live on discovery+, Eurosport and Eurosport app