Scotty James is good at winning. At this point, he may not remember what losing feels like. What he does know is the taste of victory is as delectable now as it was when he won his first X Games Aspen gold in 2017.
“The feeling never gets old. Winning is such an amazing feeling. So much hard work goes into this,” James said. “That feeling is unbelievable. To do it here at X Games is very, very special to me. X Games is a pinnacle for us. I dreamt of getting one X Games medal and I’ve added another one to my collection. So I’m absolutely pumped and just excited about the whole event.”
James, the charismatic Australian who has taken over the snowboarding world, won his 10th straight contest — including non-X Games events — on Thursday, holding off Japan’s Yuto Totsuka in the men’s snowboard superpipe final at X Games. It was the third Aspen gold in four years for James, his lone defeat coming in 2018 when he took silver to Japan’s Ayumu Hirano, who hasn’t competed at X Games since then.
Going back to essentially the 2018 Winter Olympics, won by Shaun White with Hirano claiming silver and James bronze, the Aussie has been untouchable. White, who has a Winter X Games record 18 medals, hasn’t competed in a halfpipe contest since the Olympics.
Their absence in recent years hasn’t bothered James, who keeps racking up wins.
“I had to learn some adversity, especially coming from Australia and I persevered and here I am with three gold medals,” James said. “Riding the halfpipe is getting more and more technical. It’s becoming more and more physically demanding. So when you get to stand on top of the podium, the feeling is still much the same as the first one.”
Thursday’s contest was a little different than in the past. ESPN opted for a 30-minute jam session in the eight-rider final as opposed to the traditional untimed three-run final format. The winner was determined more by overall impression instead of their best score on a single run.
It wasn’t wildly different, per se, but it was different enough that it tested riders in ways it never had before.
“My riding fits really good in the format. I always like to do creative stuff that’s kind of hard to put into contest runs,” Switzerland’s Jan Scherrer said. “When you have a session like this without a time, it feels more natural. It feels more like riding.”
Scherrer, a relatively veteran 25-year-old rider who competed in the past two Olympics, finished third Thursday to win his first X Games medal. Runner-up Totsuka also finished second to James at X Games Aspen last winter.
“Amazing. I can’t believe it yet,” Scherrer said. “Winning a medal at X Games is pretty much a dream of every competition rider. I’ve been riding competitions for so many years now, it’s a big dream come true.”
James also seems on board with the new format. The best single run still makes up the bulk of a rider’s score — not that there actually is a score, just standings — but a small percentage is about that overall impression, which can mean a number of things, from variety to general creativity.
“I really enjoyed it. I think it was an awesome show and display of snowboarding and how you have to diversify yourself and your tricks,” James said. “Historically that’s what snowboarding has always been about. It’s a way to express your creativity and a format like this really does that.”
Coming in fourth Thursday was Idaho’s Chase Josey, who owns that position. He’s finished fourth in Aspen — one off from medaling — each of the past four competitions. His only X Games medal is a 2016 bronze in Oslo.
California’s Danny Davis, who won X Games bronze last year, finished fifth, followed by Steamboat’s Taylor Gold in sixth, California’s Toby Miller in seventh and Longmont’s Chase Blackwell in eighth.