James Woods is a ‘life at 100mph’ kind of guy. When he’s not careering down a mountain, he’s searching for the perfect surf or throwing himself out of a plane.
He could be forgiven yesterday for wanting to find a quiet room for a long sit down and a bit of a cry.
Freestyle skier Woods, from Sheffield, admitted he was gutted by his fourth-place finish, in arguably the greatest men’s slopestyle final of all time.
This is a sport of fractions, not enough speed into a jump and you’ll crash in a flailing blur of arms, legs, skis and poles. Too much speed, same result. The margin between champ and chump is as razor thin as a speed skater’s blade.
Woods, who learnt to ski oin the dry slopes of his home city, was the only skier in the final to post two scores over the magic 90 point mark – but his best run meant he finished just 1.20 points off bronze – if this was the downhill it would equate to hundredths of a second.
“Fourth isn’t great, it’s pretty minging,” he said. “It’s just devastating being that close to the action, to the bright lights, it’s totally gutting right now.
Fourth isn’t great, it’s pretty minging,” he said. “It’s just devastating being that close to the action, to the bright lights, it’s totally gutting right now.James Woods
“I’ve been prepping for this with only winning in mind. I believe, hand on heart, that if I’d put down my run totally clean I’d be standing here talking to you with a gold medal around my neck.
“I’m proud that I stood up under the pressure and I’ve been able to compete with the best guys in the world. I put everything on the line, I didn’t hold back and went for broke.
“I knew I had to go big and maybe I went just a tad too big. I knew that score probably wouldn’t be enough against this field. That competition was the next level, the quality was obscene. Everyone was mega, everyone put on a show. I’m proud I was a part of it but, right now, I’m just gutted I’ve only got being proud to show for it.”
Woods was one of eight skiers who scored 90-plus points in qualifying but fell heavily on his first run in the final, covering his chin in a red, white and blue plaster. His second two runs looked spot on, only the aficionado would have noticed the flaws –a slight bob on landing, a wobble on the rails.
Freestyle skiing is a young man’s business, medallists Oystein Braaten, Nick Goepper and Alex Beaulieu-Marchand are all younger than Woods, who’ll be 30 for the next Games in Beijing, a virtual old man in a sport of bright young things. However, he has no intention of calling it quits.
“I’m not thinking about the future, I’m thinking I’ve got some mega whiplash coming on from that fall and I need some stitches in my chin,” he adds.
“I’ve got to be disappointed with coming fourth that’s going to hit me harder when I wake up.
“But there’s so much more to this than just the big competitions. Skiing’s got a lot going on for me. I’ll be skiing forever, baby.”
Meanwhile, Halifax’s Tyler Harding admitted a mixture of pride and disappointment after completing his Olympic debut.
Harding missed out on the last Games in Sochi after injuring his anterior cruciate ligament and history very nearly repeated itself here.
The 21-year old has been battling a knee injury and it clearly showed as he nursed his way through two qualifying runs in the men’s freestyle skiing slopestyle final.
But after just missing out on qualification for Sochi 2014, Harding’s upward curve took a hit as he badly damaged his anterior cruciate ligament, causing him to spend a year away from the sport.
“I’m happy to be at the Olympics and in one piece, especially with my very dodgy knee,” he said, after finishing 29th in qualifying.
“I could only do two hours of practice, so that wasn’t really the best of me and that’s disappointing – especially as I know everyone would have been watching back home.”
“I’m annoyed that I couldn’t put the sort of run down that I know I can do.
“However, just being part of this, watching this guys, it shows what our sport is all about. Compared to the last Olympics the level is 100 times better.
“This has taken a lot of effort and time to make these Games and I’ll be able to say I’m an Olympian forever now, no-one is taking this off me.
“However, next time I want to be challenging, it’s been a frustrating time but it’s has been very inspiring.”
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