Thrill-seeking Scotty James: Focused on winning at life

After a bumpy start to 2021 Australian Olympic bronze medallist has a score to settle with rivals at the FIS Snowboard and Freestyle Ski World Championships.

7 min By Ashlee Tulloch
Scotty James after winning the men's Snowboard Superpipe Final at Dew Tour Copper Mountain 2020
(Picture by 2020 Getty Images)

Scotty James is full of surprises. On the slopes and off them.

At just 26 years old, the PyeongChang 2018 halfpipe bronze medallist is preparing for his fourth Olympic Games at Beijing 2022 and he's not stopping there.

"I don't see why I couldn't do a fifth or sixth as long as I look after myself now," the Australian told Olympic Channel's Ashlee Tulloch on an Instagram live interview.

But first things first, he's got business to take care of at the FIS Snowboard and Freeski World Championships in Aspen, 10-16 March. You can catch the Slopestyle and Halfpipe competition right here on Olympicchannel.com (geo-restrictions may apply).

Around 300 athletes representing 37 nations are expected to compete at the Championships.

James is going for a four-peat in the halfpipe.

"I honestly don't think all that much about whether I'm going for three-peats or going for an undefeated season. That stuff doesn't really cross my mind," James says.

"I work very hard and I just trust in myself and my vision and and if on that day it all comes together and I walk away with my fourth world title, then absolutely fantastic, and if I don't, I've got something to learn from.

"But I do feel very good right now and I've had some time to be able to step away and work on some things. And I'm very energised to get into the half pipe and go and defend my world title, no doubt."

Getting back on track

James has had a less-than-ideal start to his season.

After going undefeated in a two-year span from 2019-2020, where he won every halfpipe contest he entered, he's been beaten twice already in 2021, by no other than 19-year-old Totsuka Yuto.

The Japanese rider has been sitting in the Australian's shadow for several years, but no more, James finishing runner up to Totsuka at Laax in January and then the X Games, Aspen in February.

For James that meant losing the X Games superpipe title he had won three out of the previous four years.

"Ideally, every single time you want to finish at the top of the podium, you know, it was it was definitely tough," James tells Olympic Channel.

He says the global pandemic has had a big impact on his slow start, but he's not worried about catching up.

"I'm being realistic at the moment. I went back to Australia in March last year. Obviously, there wasn't any snow there and we were in pretty strict lockdown. I had pretty much had six months off the board.

"I think honestly, what separates the guys from me now, the Japanese for example - who have been beating me this year - they did have a halfpipe while I was sitting at home in Australia in lockdown."

Now James feels he's making up for the lost time.

"I know that once I get that time in the halfpipe and I get to learn those tricks, I'll get back to where I like to be, which is at the top.

"They made the most of their opportunity, good on them. But I'm fired up and ready to get back to work and stand back on top again next year."

He's knows he's got some work to do to knock Totsuka off his perch though.

"It is a good rivalry, I think it's naturally just built over the past few years.

"He's an incredible snowboarder, naturally talented individual who's very driven. I think he's also a big competitor like me. He's been riding really well the past few years, as well as all the other Japanese.

"They're just a force in general and not just in the halfpipe, but also in slopestyle."

Scotty James' inspirations

The Australian has rubbed shoulders with many stars, but he still has a list of people he would like to meet.

There are two big names at the top of the list.

The first is none other than a 20-time Grand Slam winner.

"One very inspiring person to me is Roger Federer, not just because of what he has achieved on the tennis court, but also my perception of him and what I've seen is that he's a very down-to-earth individual who is able to switch on competitively, but also have his life away from the court," James says.

"Which to me is the key to success in life."

"I'd be very interested to know how he recovers and what he's doing to make sure that he is competing at the highest level at his age. I think it's incredible." - Scotty James on Roger Federer

The Australian is also a golf fan.

"I'd love to speak to Tiger Woods. I just feel like he is a very fierce competitor. And I love golf.

"Golf is the best mind game in the world. I think those guys, more than most sports, have been able to be in touch with themselves on just another level.

"I'd be really interested to see how someone with such a fierce competitive mentality is also very relaxed and calm."

Ambitious Aussie

For all his antics on social media, James is also level headed, ambitious and incredibly focused.

While he likes to enjoy himself, he's also very diligent about how he lives his life and what he wants to achieve.

"I do a lot of physical training. I do a lot of recovery-based training. I'm very particular about the food that I'm eating.

"My biggest goal is, I'm coming into my fourth Olympic Games next year and I don't see why I couldn't do a fifth or sixth as long as I look after myself now.

"And that's my mentality and that's the path I'm going to stay on to make sure that I can keep snowboarding, but also snowboarding at a very high level and being very competitive."

He isn't putting a time limit on his career, in fact longevity is his aim.

"For snowboarding and I guess athletes in general, people really do put a end date on us.

"Sometimes people just get to a point in their career in sport, where they're happy with what they've done and they don't want to continue anymore. But for me, I want to see how far I can go and I don't see this next Olympics being (my last).

"I honestly feel like it's going to be the start of where I'm going to be more competitive over the next three Olympics just because of my mentality switch and what I'm doing away from snowboarding."

James admits that he's a thrill seeker.

"Taking risks is what I do for a living. It is very important to push myself, and not only in snowboarding but anything.

"I would love to drive an F1 car. I got in a two seater once, I did the two seater in Melbourne. I felt that energy rush of the power out of the car.

"I've always really liked cars, a huge vintage car fan myself. I would love to try and collect a few down the track. But driving an F1 would be an absolute thrill and something that I hope I get to do one day."


Before Scotty James came Torah Bright.

His fellow Aussie led the way for James, winning women's halfpipe Vancouver 2010 gold and Sochi 2014 silver.

He now wants to create a path for others to follow in their footsteps.

_"_Australians in particular, we are not known to be all that familiar in the winter sport world.

"So I think it's very important for me to portray that in the best light possible, to show people that we are here and we are present and it doesn't matter where we come from, we're going to be competitive."

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