The best is yet to come as James reaches his physical and mental peak. PHOTOGRAPH BY LEO FRANCIS.
“In terms of a remarkable career, it’s hard to look beyond being a standard bearer. [in PyeongChang]. As an athlete, going to the Olympics is the pinnacle. Accompanying the members of your team, a nation, towards the Olympic Games is an incredible feeling. And at that time, I was only 23 years old.
You have to adapt to the mold of the flag bearer. For me, it has been nothing but hard work, dedication and ensuring that I present myself in the best possible way as a hardworking and honest Australian. And obviously having a little laugh here and there too.
Someone said to me at the time, ‘Oh, because you’re the flag bearer, now you have to medal, otherwise it’s a huge disappointment’. I was like, ‘Thank you – I already felt the pressure, you just added it.
This pressure does not change. With experience, you know what to expect. It is above all the external pressure and the media hype that surrounds the Olympic Games. I guess in Beijing, it was my fourth, I figured out how to emotionally control all these things.
When you go to your first Olympics, it’s overwhelming. You
go from little media attention to a lot and it can
be really overwhelming for anyone. I learned to handle it all better. When you first go there you get all that attention and you feel good about yourself and it can send you soaring emotionally.
There are so many different things that come into play
at the Olympic Games compared to another competition. But as far as what I wanted to do when I was on the halfpipe, I had no more pressure than at the X Games the week before. I still have the same expectation of myself, which is quite high. I have already prepared, just by competing over the last decade. I always put a lot of pressure on myself to perform. So that way I’m used to.
I felt great heading into Beijing this year – physically strong, mentally healthy and really excited. It’s been a big season for me, with our usual world tour, as well as the X Games. The only difference was the elephant in the room. The Olympics are the only event I haven’t won yet. It’s not necessarily pressure that I feel from others; it’s more about me. I would like to achieve this and if I keep working hard, I will get there one day.
That said, I can really appreciate winning silver in Beijing for what it is. I have a lot of respect for such a result. It’s quite exciting and very special. If someone had told me 10 years ago that I would be a seven-time X-Games medalist with four gold medals, two Olympic medals,
triple world champion, I would have told them that there is absolutely no chance. But I surrounded myself with amazing people and a great team.
I like adversity a bit, which I feel like I’ve faced throughout my career, just by being Australian in winter sports. So I’m very proud of every result and getting another Olympic medal is definitely very special. I am proud. It might have been a bit bittersweet, but I’m pretty aware of being aware of the bigger picture.