Even in a world full of originals, James Woods, or “Woodsy”, as he’s universally known, is different. Or as he puts it: “We’re all mad dogs — but the Englishman bit, well that gives me that bit extra!”
The 26-year-old Yorkshireman, who learnt his trade on an artificial piste in Sheffield, is a slopestyle skier, which involves taking on a course featuring rails and jumps while pulling off a series of spins and flips. “I see what I do as an art,” he says. “It’s so subjective that I find it difficult to see it as a sport. Competing against myself is the big thing, and winning medals is a by-product almost. If I’m honest, I see myself as a cross between entertainer, sportsman and artist.”
And what an artist. His signature trick is unique to him; if Picasso had Guernica, then Woodsy has the switch triple cork 1440 octograb, a precarious masterpiece involving three flips and four revolutions in mid-air before he lands facing backwards on his skis.
It won him a gold medal at the X Games last year, which he sees as the pinnacle of his sport. And what of the Olympics? “In Sochi, I hurt my hip just before the slopestyle competition and still finished fifth. I know I’m the best in the world at this, there’s no doubt about that in mine or anybody else’s mind, so I’ll be disappointed if I don’t win, but I’m not going to let it define me.
“Listen, I won’t hold back. There’s no tomorrow after the Olympics. You go down, give everything, hold nothing back. You need to be able to hold your head high and say, ‘Look, rock ‘n’ roll, man, this is what I do!’” Interview by Ian Chadband
When can I watch James Woods compete in the Winter Olympics?
The men’s slopestyle heats begin on Sunday 18th February, airing at 1am on BBC1 and Eurosport 2. The finals will begin at 4am UK time the same day, but don’t worry if you can’t wake up that early – there will be highlights and repeats on both the BBC and Eurosport throughout the day.