Sheffield dry slope prodigy turned international freestyle skiing star James ‘Woodsy’ Woods just became the first British skier to win a gold medal at the X Games. He talks to Matt Clark about what that means to him, and about Team GB’s chances in the upcoming Winter Olympics in PyeongChang
Matt Clark: Hi Woodsy, great to catch up! First of all, huge congratulations for your X Games Big Air gold in Aspen, and then also for silver in the Slopestyle in Quebec!
Woodsy: Thank you!
MC: So, how does it feel to be the first British skier to win an X Games gold medal?
Woodsy: Haha yeah pretty good really! Obviously the X Games have been massively on my radar for a very long time now, it’s sort of the pinnacle of what I do, so it’s pretty amazing. Definitely a big reward.
MC: You’re also competing in the freestyle World Cup at the moment, and then hopefully the Olympics in PyeongChang too. How do the X Games compare to the other competitions – which is the most important for you?
Woodsy: Well the X Games really represents the whole culture of, well action sports generally to be honest! Not just freeskiing and snowboarding, but the whole action sports world, even while I was growing up. So for me personally the X Games will always have a really special place in my heart. Obviously, you know, we’re in the World Cup circuit now, we’ve got World Championships, we’ve got Olympics coming up – and that’s HUGE too! It is a little bit of a shift of mindset, you know, to compete for your country; but how could you not be proud to represent your country at the highest level? Any opportunity to do that is huge, and that’s what the Olympics are for me.
MC: As well as the Big Air gold you’ve been getting some great results in Slopestyle too. Which is your favourite discipline, or do you focus on both equally?
Woodsy: Slopestyle is my main thing really, always has been. Before I always used to just think ‘well, I’d rather focus on slopestyle, I don’t want to the toll of another event on my body’ during such an important time as X Games. This year though I sort of mentioned to them that I’m ready to do it, and that I’d like to do both this year. So of course it was great to come in hot in Big Air, but Slopestyle is still my main thing.
MC: Do you prefer rails or jumps generally?
Woodsy: I just love skiing. All of it haha!
Mixing it up on the X Games Slopestyle course in Aspen | Credit: Rachel Bock
MC: So we’re now really in the run up to the Winter Olympics next year, but you’ve still got lots of events on this season too. What do you have planned for the rest of the winter?
Woodsy: Yeah! I’ve got a really busy time coming up, or not so much busy but a really important time coming up! There’s the World Cup finals, which I’m in the race to win; then immediately after that is X Games Norway; immediately after that is the World Championships. So there’s a lot of big stuff up for grabs right now!
MC: Sounds like a busy schedule! How do you manage to fit training in amongst so much travelling and competition?
Woodsy: Well I find it hard to call it training really! I mean, any day skiing is kind of training, you know, but I really just love doing this. It’s my hobby as well, so I ski as much as I can and as much as my body lets me – that’s what I wanna do! And whenever I do click in [to my bindings] I’m enjoying myself and thinking about my next event. It’s all sort of one big mesh to me.
MC: Do you get much chance to film too?
Woodsy: To be honest not a great deal right now, as I’m so busy competing. I film as much as I can, ‘cos it’s important to me and it’s important for the whole free sports culture, you know? I mean, you’re making a legacy, so I try my hardest. At the moment, particularly with qualifications for the Olympics and everything coming up it’s pretty hard, but any chance I get to get in front of a camera I take the opportunity.
MC: British snowsports athletes collectively have been really putting down some great performances lately across the board, but particularly in freestyle. Is there anything or anyone in particular to thank for the team’s general success?
Woodsy: Yeah everyone is doing so well, it’s wonderful to see! We have someone in pretty much every discipline in ski and snowboard doing fantastically, and legitimately doing well in the World Cup events and going big. Obviously it’s great to have the whole Team GB side of things in place, but these are some exceptional talents in their own right, you know what I mean? There’s a lot of passion floating around.
MC: What do you think our chances are for the Olympics? Anyone in particular we should be watching?
Woodsy: I hope so, everyone’s killing it! So much can happen in that time frame in a sport like this! Everybody’s so on point. I mean, we don’t have a Tiger Woods or Usain Bolt in this sport – it’s really anybody’s game. We have guys and girls out there putting down runs that are competitive with the best in the world, and there’s nothing stopping anybody from winning.
MC: So you’ve got the next X Games events coming up in Norway soon too. Do you think you can pull off the double gold?
Woodsy: I’d like to think so! I mean, I know I can… It’s not out of reach, and I’ve proved time and time again that I can do it and I can win competitions; it’s just a matter of holding it down at the right time. I’ve got the skills to do anything really, but it’s a wild sport – sometimes you get weather, sometimes you get this, that and the other… And courses change too… I’m in this to do the best that I can – as long as I have a smile on my face!
MC: Haha well thanks for catching up, and good luck from all of us at Fall-Line in Norway!
Woodsy: Much appreciated man, that means a lot – thank you!