Scotty James: "I'm just getting started."
Monday, 27 August 2018
The scene was set for the greatest halfpipe showdown in Winter Olympic history with VIS athlete Scotty James, two-time Olympic gold medallist Shaun White and the impressive Japanese teenager Ayumu Hirano qualifying in the top three places for the PyeongChang final.
Much had been made of the trio heading into the Games with bitter debates about perfect scores, skewed judging and technique v technicality. But that was cast aside when the three best riders in the sport laid down markers for the big show.
James, who had the honour of carrying Australia’s flag at the Opening Ceremony, eased into qualification position with an 89-point first run.
He turned it on with the second, laying on some of his biggest tricks including frontside and backside 1260s, the VIS athlete raised the bar and took the qualifying lead with a score of 96.75. White was up to the challenge, scoring 98.5 in his second run to ease into the final, while the diminutive Japanese rider Hirano scored 95.25 for third.
In the final, James laid down an excellent first run that included his signature move, the switch backside 1260 with double cork, a trick with three-and-a-half rotations and a blind entry and landing.
White responded immediately, grabbing first place with a run of 94.25, including a 1440 (four x 360 degree rotations), a Double McTwist and ending with a 1260 (3.5 rotations).
Donning his iconic red boxing gloves, the two-time World Champion went into his final run in third place behind White on 94.25 and Hirano who held the top spot with 95.25.
While James couldn't improve on his score, White won gold in the last run with a whopping 97.75 to claim his third Winter Olympic gold medal ahead of Hirano.
The likeable Victorian from the sleepy town of Warrandyte couldn't hide his emotions after clinching the bronze in the best halfpipe final the Olympics has seen;
"I came out and did it the Australian way and gave it a real hard crack, I was expecting a really good battle and a battle it was," he said.
"I'm very proud of my country and where I come from but I can assure you I am just getting started, you can expect to see a lot more of me in the future."
Although bronze might not have been the medal colour Scotty was hoping for, he acknowledges he was involved in the "best snowboard halfpipe competition ever" and now has his eyes on the future and the Beijing 2022 Games;
"I want to be the best in the world, I am absolutely ready for Beijing," James said with a smile.
If that event is anywhere near as good as the PyeongChang final, there will be plenty of others that cannot wait either.