15 year old half pipe rider Scotty James has put himself into Olympic team contention by finishing in 15th place in the latest World Cup in Stoneham, Canada on Friday 22 January, James may now replace injured Nathan Johnstone as one of Australia’s two male snowboard half pipe Olympians.
James’ Olympic contention is confirmed by Ski and Snowboard Australia (SSA) CEO Michael Kennedy, if Johnstone’s fractured ankle – sustained in a training accident in the USA earlier this week – keeps him from competing, James could replace Johnstone on the Olympic team says Kennedy.
James flew to Canada from Australia when he heard of Johnstone’s injury in a last minute effort to meet the Olympic selection criteria, having failed to do so with his results from World Cups in November, December and January.
James needed to finish 19th to meet Olympic eligibility, his 15th is a remarkable achievement Kennedy said.
James’ Olympic qualification has been a matter of discussion amongst the snowboarding community since he came a then career best 23rd in the Kreischberg, Austria World Cup on 7 January and it was suggested he may challenge for one of the two Olympic places available to Australia, pushing Ben Mates from the team, on the basis of being the rider with the best potential and a media drawcard as the youngest ever half pipe competitor.
James had not met the minimum requirements for Olympic selection however and Kennedy categorically stated he could not replace Mates, or Johnstone, on the Olympic team. At the time, this was true, and James was not expected to compete again before the Olympics, meaning he would stay ineligible.
Johnstone’s injury and James’ dash to Stoneham changed everything however, James can now be considered for the Olympic team. This may make him the youngest half pipe competitor since the sports introduction to the Olympics in 1998.
Johnstone has not yet been ruled out, says Kennedy, a medical assessment is still pending on his fractured ankle and he may yet be cleared to compete in February. However, should Johnstone not be fit, James is now in a position to step into his place.
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Words – Tess Cook