He owns a bag of tricks that can propel him to an history Olympic gold but it’s what Scotty James will be wearing on his hands that could change his life forever.
Scotty James saves his red boxing gloves only for special occasions.
Friday is one of those times.
The greatest male snowboarder Australia has produced, he’s among the favourites to win the gold medal in the halfpipe (1.30pm AEDT) at the Beijing Winter Olympics.
He won a bronze four years ago and already has a stockpile of world and X Games titles, but the Olympic gold is the crown jewel missing from his collection.
On form, he’s got a great shot at winning because he is able to perform a series of death-defying tricks that the judges love and will reward highly.
If he nails them all, it will take an extraordinary performance from his rivals to beat him, but he’s up against a star-studded field and the pressure is intense because the rewards are life-changing and it’s also a dangerous sport.
Serious injuries are commonplace but to be the best, James will need to put his body on the line and risk his health because that’s what all his rivals will be doing too.
“It’s always going to take something big and epic to win an Olympic gold or even stand on the podium,” James said. “So you prepare for big and epic, which is what I’ve done.”
Friday’s final is looming as the single most anticipated event of the entire Games because the stakes are so high and halfpipe is just compelling viewing.
Like Jakara Anthony’s gold medal winning performance in the moguls last weekend, the halfpipe will be a heart in the mouth moment for the entire country.
If James wins, he’ll not only join Steven Bradbury and Dale Begg-Smith as the only Australian men to win gold at the Winter Olympics, he’ll also become the face of winter sports for a whole generation of Aussies.
“I’m so proud to be from Australia in a winter sport. It’s just so outside the box for an Australian to be competitive,” James told News Corp.
“I’ve dedicated a lot of my life and a lot of my energy and a lot of my physical and emotional time into doing my best for Australia at this Olympic Games.”
A megastar in the world of snowboarding, James is not only supremely talented, he is also one of the great showmen in a sport already littered with charismatic entertainers, including the American Shaun White – aka the flying tomato – and Japanese sensation Ayumu Hirano.
James often shadow boxes before he sets off down the halfpipe, wearing his trademark boxing mitts. On Wednesday, when he qualified second, he wore black gloves, but for Friday’s final, he’ll have a red pair, which is the visual clue that he means business.
That bravado isn’t just an act. When James first dreamed of becoming a professional snowboarder, he went all in, putting everything on the line.
Mates with the rich and famous and engaged to the sister of Canadian Formula One driver Lance Stroll, he’s done well for himself, leading a life few would ever dream of.
But he’s also been very open about the fears he holds every time he sets off down the tube and why Olympic gold for Australia means so much to him.
“What you see is who I am,” he said.
“Yes, I’m a little bit of a risk taker but that’s a pretty big part of what I do as a profession.
“I’m Scotty James. I’m from Warrandyte, Victoria, Australia and I’m just seeing how far I can go.”
Originally published as Scotty James carries weight of a nation in Winter Olympics halfpipe final