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Smokin' pipe: Scotty James vows to complete collection after silver in Olympic epic

(Photo by Ulrik Pedersen/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
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11th February, 2022
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Scotty James has vowed to return in four years to complete his medal collection after adding an Olympic silver medal to his bronze from four years ago in the greatest halfpipe competition ever seen.

The 27-year-old Victorian, who carried the flag for Australia four years ago, pulled out a stunning second run, capping it with a 1440 frontside with a grab, to score 92.50 and edge into gold medal position, holding it until the very last run.

His main rival, Japan’s 2018 silver medallist Ayumu Hirano, produced a triple cork move for the first time ever by an athlete in competition on the next run but fell just short of James’ score with 91.75.

But after James messed up his third run, Hirano – who had his own gold seized off him by US legend Shaun White four years ago on the final run – nailed a 96.00, rolling out the triple cork and a 1440 frontside to blow the judges minds.

James was all class as he reflected on the gut-wrenching finale, giving huge credit to his Japanese rival.

“I really hope people don’t think I’m at all disappointed,” said James. “I am absolutely incredibly over the moon. I came out and gave it my shot and that’s all we can ask for as athletes. To stand on the podium at an Olympic games again is an incredible feat.

“For me, as an Australian, to be even competing with these guys from where we come from, there’s a lot of pride with that.

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“If I can display that and ride like that and just pour my heart into it then I’ve had success and I did that today.”

He made it clear he would keep going through to the next Games in Milano, Cortina, Italy.

“Four years? Absolutely. I’m still really young, I’ve still got a lot of vision, I’m very driven.

“I’ve got the bronze, I’ve got the silver and now I need to finish off my collection for the pool room with gold in Italy. And Italy’s one of my favourite countries.”

White, a three-time gold medallist, fell on his final run, which he says is his final competitive performance.

He had tears in his eyes as he awaited the scores, but more a sign of emotion than disappointment, and teared up again as he paid tribute to Hirano and James.

“I ‘m happy for Ayumu, I’m so happy for Scotty, I feel the hurt for Scotty. I know he was happy with second but he wanted that gold,” said White.

“But to watch Ayumu crush – that was the run of a lifetime and he just nailed it and I’m so proud of him.”

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Since he was 10 years old James has spent six months a year chasing snow, his mum Celia by his side.

When he returns to the family home of his mum and dad Phil in Warrandyte, Victoria, the snowboard superstar will sometimes go into his garage and pick up the mini snowboard his dad bought for 10 bucks in Canada and daydream on his incredible rise.

“It was so small it could be portrayed as a toy,” James told me. “But it was a legit snowboard — just a 80-90cm board.

“I stand in it sometimes and it’s funny. My feet don’t fit in the bindings in shoes and I used to wear snowboard boots in it. It’s quite cool, a special little thing for me to still have and reflect on. That’s would pretty cool if I have kids, to put them on that board.”

James gave Australia its third medal of the game after Tess Coady’s bronze and Jakara Anthony’s gold in moguls.

It’s an event Australia could dominate for several Games with the arrival of 16-year-old Aussie Valentino Guseli, who was impressive in finishing sixth after producing his own stunning 1440 climax on his third run.

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“It’s exciting for Australian snowboarding,” said James.

“Val’s awesome, he’s a super talented kid.

“He’s at his first Olympics, he’s made finals. It kind of speaks for itself.

“He’s incredible, He’s got a smile on his face which I appreciate, he’s a nice kid.”

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