Sochi 2014: James Woods faces X Games ahead of Olympics

By Ollie WilliamsBBC Olympic sports reporter
Visiting the site of where he first hit the slopes, Woods took the rare opportunity to catch up with some old friends and share his ambitions for the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi 2014.

Great Britain's James Woods is "in great form" heading into his first Winter Olympics but will not take it easy at this week's X Games, his coach says.

The two-time X Games bronze medallist, 22, competes in Aspen, Colorado from 24 to 26 January ahead of his Olympic ski slopestyle event on 13 February.

"This is obviously a big one, it's a last big event before Sochi," coach Pat Sharples said of the X Games.

"He'd absolutely love to get a gold."

X Games glory has traditionally been the pinnacle of a freeskier's career, but the introduction of slopestyle to the Olympic programme for Sochi has given Sheffield's Woods a new incentive.

Some athletes are still expected to prioritise X Games success over the Olympics, but Woods has long targeted a podium finish at both.

"It's a really interesting one. X Games has always been like our Olympics, it's done so many great things for freeskiing and everybody wants to win the X Games just as much as the Olympics," said Sharples.

"Now the Olympics has come along and, especially after seeing what happened at London 2012, everybody wants this. It's new, it's fresh.

"I've heard rumours that other nations might treat the X Games as a sort-of training competition but I'm not sure if they will - everybody wants to win that X Games gold medal."

As well as Woods, Britons Billy Morgan and Aimee Fuller will be competing in snowboard slopestyle in Aspen while Zoe Gillings races in the snowboard cross.

Woods won slopestyle silver at last year's World Championships in Voss, Norway, and is set to lead a British team featuring a number of medal prospects in freestyle events in Sochi.

Eighteen-year-old Katie Summerhayes is one of them. Summerhayes recovered from a knee injury to take women's ski slopestyle World Cup silver in Gstaad, Switzerland, at the weekend.

He's got the moves - check out slopestyler James Woods in action

"Katie has had it tougher than anybody," said Sharples. "Her knee wasn't feeling great so we had it checked out and found a failed ligament operation.

"She has worked really hard to get fit, she's had an amazing doctor, she's been training with us in the United States for the last month and she came second last week, so she's back and excited."

Sharples believes the British freestyle squad members - to be confirmed by the British Olympic Association on Wednesday - have "done everything they can" to prepare for Sochi 2014.

"I know how passionate all my guys are," he said. "They grew up with all these dreams of being pro skiers and snowboarders, competing alongside their heroes, and that's exactly what they're doing now - not just competing against them, but beating them sometimes.

"The facilities in the UK have been a big bonus. I don't think anybody believed we could use these centres to our advantage, but we have."

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