Woods is confident the ‘fridge kids’ will be back

Elise Christie collides with her rivals in the 500m short track final.
Elise Christie collides with her rivals in the 500m short track final.
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James Woods believes the best is yet to come from him and his band of fearless freestyle skiers and snowboarders.

Great Britain’s slopestyle stars have exceeded expectation in thrilling style in the first week of the 22nd Winter Olympics in Sochi.

They have collected Britain’s first medal on snow through Jenny Jones and recorded four more top-10 finishes with a number of exciting performances at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.

Sheffield’s Woods, 22, finished fifth yesterday in the men’s skiing slopestyle final to join earlier efforts from Bradford’s Jamie Nicholls, who was sixth, and Sheffield’s Katie Summerhayes, seventh, in being proud at their performance while also feeling an opportunity had slipped through their fingers.

It is a fantastic set of results from a team known by their opponents as the ‘fridge kids’ because they all learned on dry ski slopes.

Woods and Summerhayes grew up at the Sheffield ski village that now sadly lies derelict and an insult to the legacy they will leave, while Nicholls learned at Halifax.

Woods said: “We’ve got some incredibly talented people, real young guys, everyone across the board doing amazing.

“We might not have had the biggest team here but we had a flipping good spread.

“Everyone’s doing really well and I couldn’t be more proud of the team.

“I know the Olympics ideal is about coming here and taking part but we’d all like to see a little bit of hardware. I certainly would.

“I’m very proud of myself for what I’ve done throughout all my skiing and as far as I’m concerned I’m only just getting started.”

It could have gone so much better for Woods had he not been hampered by a hip injury suffered on a training run last Friday.

Although he was on the verge of pulling out the night before, he battled on and finished third in qualifying yesterday morning with a first run of 87.20 before aggravating the injury on his second run.

In the final he landed a run of 86.60 to temporarily move into second place but was unable to sustain that position and, in a high-quality final, was knocked out of the medal positions by a trio of Americans.

Joss Christensen took gold with Gus Kenworthy and Nick Goepper rounding out the podium.

Afterwards the Yorkshireman refused to speculate whether he would have been in contention had he been 100 per cent fit, preferring to highlight his happiness at the runs he completed.

“I’m not putting anything out there,” said Woods who was chasing an unprecedented achievement of medalling in all four major competitions, having earned bronze at the 2011 Winter X Games Europe and at the 2013 Winter X Games, and silver at the 2013 world championship.

“I love skiing, I love what I’m doing, I certainly didn’t bring my best game to the table but I’m incredibly proud to be here.

“I know what I’m good at, I know I was pretty clean and I was happy with it.”

The repeated success Woods and the ‘fridge kids’ are chasing is of the kind currently being enjoyed by the British women’s skeleton team.

Lizzy Yarnold’s terrific runs yesterday mean she needs just to maintain her 0.44-second advantage over American rival Noelle Pikus-Pace and the rest of the field today to succeed compatriot Amy Williams as Olympic champion.

Sheffield-based Shelley Rudman – who is down in 11th – won a silver in Turin after Alex Coomber started Britain’s era of success with a bronze in Salt Lake City in 2002.

Yarnold’s lead is bigger than the 0.3-second advantage Williams took into the final day four years ago.

Yarnold said: “I don’t feel the pressure and I’ve not been thinking about other people’s expectations at all. I have such high expectations of myself anyway that I just want to get better and better as an athlete.”

Rudman added: “I didn’t get curve 14 on the first run and it’s an uphill section so that bled my time. I pushed a lot faster for the second run and made up a bit of time, so I can only be pleased with that. It’s not a bad day.”

Her partner Kristan Bromley begins his challenge today whilecross-country skier Lee Jackson of Stockton-on-Tees finished 42nd in the men’s 20km pursuit. He said: “I’m closer to the podium places than I was four years ago, so that’s really encouraging.”

The big drama of the day was in the short-track speed skating when Elise Christie was disqualified for causing a crash in the final.

“One of the things I find really hard about the way I race is that I can’t hold back,” she said.

“Had I just sat in third maybe I would have just crossed the line in third and I would have a medal right now. Unfortunately my instinct doesn’t allow me to do that. I just try to win the race and that is what I was trying to do. I’m quite upset about it. I did everything I could but it didn’t pay off.”

Great Britain’s men’s curling team secured a 5-3 round-robin win against the United States while the women got their campaign back on track by beating China 8-7.