Scotty James is one of Australia’s elite sportsmen. He is the current Half-Pipe Snowboard World Champion and has been to two Winter Olympics – all by the tender age of 21.
Of course most Australians won’t know him because as sports mad as this nation is, there are some sports which do not sit front and centre in the mainstream of the sporting landscape.
So those that choose to pursue a sport that is not in the limelight, such as a winter sport, suffer the ignominy of only being acknowledged -- for the most part -- every four years at an Olympics. And yet these are still sports at which we excel at the highest level.
At 15, Scotty James swooped into our sports psyche as the youngest competitor at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, flying the flag for Australia.
He was a shaggy haired, baby-faced teen exciting us with his efforts in the half-pipe snowboard event and with all the possibilities -- of which the rest of us can only dream -- that lay ahead for one so young.
James ensured his place in Russia four years after Vancouver, by securing several top ten performances and winning a bronze medal in his final World Tour event in the lead up to the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Sochi however was not to be one for his scrapbook finishing well out of contention in his two disciplines, the half-pipe and the slopestyle.
James’ hard work, determination and mature attitude in the year since have helped him to succeed on the world stage and he is now looking to light up the northern slopes as yet another World Tour season looms large.
While he says he loves what he is doing, the young man from the outer suburbs of Melbourne says his biggest constant battle is with homesickness.
“I have a lot of time away from home and I think that’s probably the hardest thing -- I really do get quite homesick even still now. So that was probably the biggest thing that I have struggled with,” he told The Huffington Post.
In combating this, James believes in balance with his chosen sporting lifestyle. While he could do many more competitions than he does, he picks and chooses wisely.
“I’ve always gone with the less is more kind of thing because otherwise you lose that spark and creativity going into a competition environment and become a little bit stale, so that’s the way I approach it,” he said.
For all of his 21 years, he imparts a level of thought and perspective which belies his age, saying he feels a responsibility to the young riders coming through to let them know its okay to choose a path that’s a bit different in following their dreams.
“It’s quite tough and now I feel like it’s my job to help the kids -- to tell them it is a possibility to do what we do, you’ve just got to keep chipping away at it like anything else.
“I always tell the kids, ‘let me make the errors and you learn from it; you guys can avoid those things and move forward and hopefully be on the world stage too’, because I wouldn’t change anything now – it’s been awesome,” he said.
Scotty James in action. Picture: Associated Press
“I’ve just been chipping away at what I’ve loved to do for so long and there’s no one thing that I’ve done that I would tell anyone else to do, it’s just everyone has got their own road and their own journey and can figure it out, but my word of advice to any kid or anyone that wants to snowboard is to just keep on doing it,” he said.
He speaks with a wealth of experience and says he feels like one of the veterans of the world snowboarding family.
“It’s crazy because snowboarding is such a young demographic -- 15 year old kids now are getting podium spots at the Olympics -- so for me now at a snowboard competition, I don’t feel old but I definitely don’t feel that young either,” he added with a laugh.
James concedes that he too was boosted into the elite echelons of the sport at a very young age and found it dizzying but he credits the support from those around him with keeping him grounded.
“I think the major thing for me was that I have had the best support crew around me the whole time. My family have played a massive role and have always been pretty on top of me about stuff, making sure I’ve done the right things,” he said.
Off the back of a successful year, Scotty James is not only looking to make his mark on the upcoming World Tour but has his sights firmly set on the 2018 Olympics in South Korea.
"I'm just loving it so much at the moment. I’m trying to go through the season in my head, all I want to focus on every single event. I just want to really have an impact on the field so without saying it – I basically just want to win.
"My goal is to get to the next Olympics, I want to be a threat and I want to be medal contending and have people know that I’m there for that reason and not just another guy there to compete," he said, adding "I’m on track now and hopefully in February 2018, I can bring home some hardware to Australia."